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Mould spores in your Christmas tree could make you ill, experts warn

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Christmas trees could make some people ill because of the way they react when in contact with central heating, experts have warned.

Asthma sufferers and people with certain allergies are at risk of having attacks because, once inside a heated area, the trees give off thousands of mould spores.

These are created naturally by pine trees but in warm environments their production increases rapidly to the point where they could trigger an allergic reaction.

Dr Helen Cox, a consultant in paediatric allergy and immunology, said: “Certainly I have had people in my clinic who have said that their symptoms started when the Christmas tree arrived and went away when the tree came down.”

She added: “The mould spores can cause asthma attacks in those who are allergic to them.”

However, Dr Cox cautioned that when an asthma attack or other allergic reaction appears to be caused by a Christmas tree, there is often an underlying viral infection.

In a recent study, researchers in Connecticut found the mould count from a live Christmas tree rose to five times the normal level two weeks after the tree was brought indoors.

The study found that the mould spore count rose from 800 per square metre for the first three days to a maximum of 5,000 per square metre by day 14.

Normal spore counts are less than 1,000 per square metre.

The apparently obvious answer – to switch to a plastic tree – also has drawbacks, experts said.

Amena Warner, head of clinical services at Allergy UK, warned that because they are often stored uncovered in lofts, they “can be covered in dust and dust mites can also set off asthma attacks”.

Asthma sufferers are advised to make sure their inhalers will last the Christmas period and have the flu jab
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Asthma sufferers are advised to make sure inhalers will last the Christmas period

She added: “Few people wrap up their Christmas trees and decorations properly to prevent them being covered in dust.”

Ms Warner also said food allergies can set off reactions.

Sometimes a bad response to types of food may be the underlying cause of an allergic reaction which is then exacerbated by a tree’s mould spores.

Dr Cox and Ms Warner advised asthma sufferers to make sure their inhalers will last the holiday period and Dr Cox said having the flu jab offers the best chance of avoiding catching a virus.

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