Does this time of year always make you feel a bit under the weather? It might be your Christmas tree's fault! Of course, it could also be your overzealous consumption of holiday punch and your constant diet of buttery cookies. But it's probably that damned tree that you paid like 65 bucks for and then dragged all the way home, only to find out it's actually a pine-needled menace, just waiting to irritate your respiratory system and prevent you from getting the most out of your New Year's Eve date.
The problem, say scientists from Upstate Medical University, is that Christmas trees are full of mold that can make you sick. They've dubbed the resulting illness "Christmas Tree Syndrome," which sounds like a lot more fun that it probably is:
The team analysed clippings from 28 Christmas trees including needles and bark, from a range of species, and found 53 cases of mould. Of these, 70 per cent can cause symptoms including itchy noses, watery eyes, coughing, shortness of breath, chest pains, sinus congestion, feelings of fatigue and problems sleeping. Some of the mould identified can even lead to long term lung problems and conditions such as bronchitis and pneumonia.
Does any of that sound familiar? If so, you might want to escort your tree out into the backyard. Sure, it sucks to ditch your tree, but just think of poor Santa, who's exposed to millions of them in a single night—not to mention all the dust and ash from all those chimneys! Hey buddy, how'd you like a little case of pneumonia instead of those cookies I usually leave you?
Anyway, the evil mold grows on the trees while they're out in their natural habitat, but it really takes off when you bring it into your nice, warm house. Another study found that things only get worse the longer you have the tree. The number of airborne mold spores shoots up from 800 per 35 cubic feet to 5,000 after the tree has been up for two weeks.
So how do you cure yourself of this wretched holiday illness? Well, you can skip the tree altogether. (This might be the perfect excuse to get you out of the monumental task of putting one of those suckers in the stand and getting the lights on it!) Or you can get an artificial tree—though they don't smell nearly as winter wonderland-y. But if you insist on a real one, Dr. Lawrence Kurlandsky, who led the research team, suggests you hose the tree down and let it dry before bringing it indoors. Then be sure to remove it promptly after the holiday. Don't let it linger to New Year's and beyond—you could be dead by then!
Image via Luisa Puccini/Shutterstock.