Before people start avoiding live Christmas trees because of their mold growth, more research needs to be done, said Dr. Dennis Ownby, a professor of pediatrics and medicine at the Medical College of Georgia, in Augusta. Since this study only looked at a single tree in one home, more homes with trees should be investigated, as well as the types of mold found and whether those molds trigger allergies. He added that the researchers should also measure mold counts outside the home and correlate those to indoor mold counts.
Hemmers said that the outdoor mold count was likely low, since the study was done during the winter. The research team does plan to do further work this Christmas season by looking at more homes and the types of mold found.
In addition to Christmas trees, there are other potential holiday allergens, said Dr. James Sublett, section chief of Pediatric Allergy at the University of Louisville School of Medicine in Kentucky. These can include foods consumed at holiday parties, such as nuts and shellfish, and Christmas ornaments and lights that have been contaminated with dust or mold.
"Store Christmas decorations in plastic containers that you can wipe off, since cardboard can potentially have mold," he advised. "Also wear a N95 dust mask when bringing stuff out of storage."
For more on holiday allergies, visit the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America.
SOURCES: Philip Hemmers, D.O., allergist and immunologist, St. Vincent's Medical Center, Bridgeport, Conn.; David Khan, M.D., associate professor, internal medicine, University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center, Dallas; James Sublett, M.D., clinical professor and section chief, pediatric allergy, University of Louisville School of Medicine, Kentucky; Dennis Ownby, M.D., professor, pediatrics and medicine, Medical College of Georgia; Nov. 12, presentation, American Academy of Alllergy, Asthma and Immunology annual meeting, Dallas