Three members of my six person family have respiratory allergies or asthma, so every year we have the Christmas tree “discussion”. Once upon a time, I thought an artificial tree was the way to go. Then I had a full blown allergic reaction to one and realized that dust and mold were bigger triggers for me than the terpenes emitted by pine needles. Not to mention that artificial trees can contain lead, often in the guise of PVC. Fake trees can also be a significant source of off-gassing in the home.
My next solution was to cut a real tree, decorate it with care, and place it OUTSIDE our living room picture windows. My family revolted. So we’re back to a real tree in our home. I’m happy to report that I’ve found a solution that works, at least for my own family. Here are the steps that I follow:
- Choose a fir, not a pine. Fir trees seem to be less problematic for many people with allergies. Buy a concolor fir if you can. These citrus-scented trees have a reputation for being less allergenic than their pinier brethren. A concolor fir is the only tree that I’ve had absolutely no allergic response to. They can be hard to find in the Northeast, so start your search early.
- Have someone with no allergic sensitivity shake the tree vigorously, once at the tree farm, and once shortly before bringing it inside.
- Hose the branches and trunk down and allow the tree to dry outside before bringing it in. If there is visible mold or mildew on a tree, don’t buy it in the first place.
- Wipe down your ornaments, wash the tree skirt, and scrub out the tree stand each year.
- Warm temperatures and air currents in a home distribute the tree’s aromatic molecules more freely. These essential oils can trigger allergies, so place your tree away from any heat source or air currents.
- Spray the tree thoroughly with a mixture of vinegar and the pure essential oils of cinnamon or clove PLUS a citrus-scented essential oil like lemongrass or sweet orange. Include the trunk. Reapply as needed. This should keep mold and mildew at bay.
- Replace the water in the tree stand daily.
Christmas Tree Spray
- 4 ounces vinegar
- 40-60 drops lemongrass essential oil
- 10 drops of peppermint, clove, or cinnamon essential oil
Shake well before each use. Use a glass spray bottle if possible. If using plastic, dispose of the bottle after you’re done using the spray for the season. Keep away from children.
Have a joyous and healthy holiday season!