11 Ways to Cope With Christmas Tree or Pine Allergies for the Holidays

How to Avoid Allergies to Your Christmas Tree (And Other Holiday Decorations)

There is so much confusing information out there about which type of Christmas tree is better for your health and the environment, especially if you happen to be allergic to Christmas trees or pine trees. Should you get a real tree or an artificial tree? What about an eco-friendly alternative Christmas? Would a live tree in a pot that you'd plant following Christmas actually be the best choice? The truth is, there are pros and cons to all these alternatives.

Christmas Tree Allergies

Real trees can harbor mold, dust, and pollen, and some people have contact skin allergies to terpene, which is found in the sap of trees. But the American College of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology (ACAAI) cautions that artificial trees also can be an allergy trigger since they too harbor dust and mold.

Many artificial trees are made of PVC, which emits toxins into your indoor air and can irritate your lungs.

The ACAAI reports that true pine tree allergy is pretty uncommon, but if you have this allergy, there are other live types of trees you can choose that may not trigger your allergy. Alternatively, you can consider an artificial tree.

Whichever alternative you choose, here are some tips for reducing indoor allergens and having an allergy-friendly Christmas.

Tips for Avoiding Christmas Tree Allergies

Verywell / Laura Porter

Tips for Real Christmas Trees

  • Choose an allergy-friendly tree: If pine pollen is a major allergy trigger for you, a fir, spruce, or cypress Christmas tree may be a better bet. The Leyland Cypress is a sterile hybrid tree, which means it does not produce any pollen. It is a popular Christmas tree in the Southeast.
  • To find a Leyland Cypress or another tree that is less allergenic for you, it can be best to contact local Christmas tree farms. The growers will know which tree species are available. A big box store or tree lot may have a limited selection or not know which types of trees they are selling.
  • Shake it up: If you buy your tree at a farm or lot, they may have a mechanical tree shaker that will remove dead needles as well as some of the dust and mold.
  • Wash your tree: Spray off your tree with water and allow to dry overnight in the garage before putting it up. This will remove some of the loose mold and pollen that is on the tree. Allow the tree to dry thoroughly before bringing indoors. Using a veggie wash may help to remove more mold and pollen than spraying water alone, and will also help to remove the residue of any pesticides that have been sprayed on the tree.
  • Set your tree up outside: If you love the look of a Christmas tree but your allergies are getting in the way of you enjoying the holiday, try setting the tree up on your porch or in front of a large window. You can enjoy the tree while sitting indoors, away from the pollen and dust.

Tips for Artificial Trees

  • Wipe it down: Artificial trees may also harbor dust and mold since they spend a lot of years sitting around in boxes. Wipe them down with a dust cloth, or take them outside and hose them off if they are not pre-lit.
  • Choose a tree with less off-gassing: Some new artificial trees are made of molded polyethylene (PE) instead of PVC, which may have lower levels of off-gassing. These trees are very realistic and tend to be more expensive than PVC trees. Know what you're buying before you order it or wrestle the box into your shopping cart. Alternatively, buy your tree very early (a simple task, given that stores stock them starting in September), and set it up to off-gas somewhere away from your main living areas, such as a garage or a shed.
  • Try an eco-friendly alternative tree: Some of the creative alternative trees have a modernist design sensibility, others are more basic. Here are two possibilities: Africa Tree, which is made from laser-cut steel and tress sold by artists on Etsy, such as a Christmas tree made from laser-cut cardboard (and ready to be recycled with the wrapping paper)

Tips for Christmas Decorations

  • Dust your ornaments: Your Christmas ornaments have been sitting in a box all year, and may also be coated in dust or mold. If possible, unwrap them outside to avoid spreading dust inside your home. Wipe them off with a soft cloth before hanging. At the end of the season, wrap your ornaments in new paper, rather than re-using old, dusty paper. If the dust continues to be a problem, consider using just lights on your tree, or possibly simple, new decorations (such as inexpensive faux "glass" ornaments) instead.
  • Clean your wreaths: Artificial wreaths can be vacuumed or dusted with a soft cloth.
  • Avoid scented candles: Scented candles can cause stuffy noses and irritated lungs. If you crave a little atmosphere with your holiday meals, try unscented beeswax candles.
  • Use allergy-friendly candy: If you decorate your tree with candy canes or other candies, be sure to use allergy-friendly candies.

A Word from Verywell

Christmas is a festive time of year, but it also can be somewhat hazardous for people who suffer from allergies. Still, there's no reason you can't have an allergy-friendly home that's also beautifully decorated for the season. Start with the least allergenic Christmas tree you can find, and add clean, dust-free ornaments (and maybe some gluten-free candy canes) for the perfect allergy-friendly holiday.

4 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. American College of Asthma, Allergy & Immunology. Let it snow, but don’t let your allergies be “frightful". November 2017.

  2. American College of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology. Pine tree allergies.

  3. National Christmas Tree Association. Common tree characteristics.

  4. American College of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology. Don't let hidden holiday allergies ruin your good cheer.

By Jeanette Bradley
Jeanette Bradley is a noted food allergy advocate and author of the cookbook, "Food Allergy Kitchen Wizardry: 125 Recipes for People with Allergies"