Christmas Tree Farm
Doctors have warned that real Christmas trees can cause illness. Getty Images

Doctors are warning about potential sickness that could arise from real Christmas trees. Dubbed “Christmas tree syndrome,” real evergreens can cause allergic reactions like coughing, wheezing and chest pains.

Mold present in the trees is to blame for allergies, and such allergic reactions have the potential to become life-threatening. No need to nix the real tree, however. Other ways exist to avoid illness.

“Get your tree in the backyard and hose it down,” Christmas tree farmer Jimmy Coan told CBS News. “Then put it in the house and you’re good to go.”

Shaking the tree can also rid it of dust and pollen particles. Those who are susceptible to allergies should have others water the trees to avoid exposure. Limiting the tree’s time inside a home to less than seven days can also reduce the risk of allergy, doctors said. The amount of mold present on a Christmas tree increased by five times the normal amount just two weeks after a tree was brought into a home, a group of researchers from Connecticut found.

“These high levels have been correlated with allergic rhinitis and an increased rate of asthma symptoms and asthma-related hospitalization in other studies,” said Phillip Hemmers, an allergist and immunologist at St. Vincent’s Medical Center, according to Health Day News. “So if you don’t feel well during the holidays, consider the Christmas tree as a possible source of allergies.”

Fake trees, however, may not solve the problem.

“There’s no escape,” said airborne allergy expert Max Wiseberg, according to the Independent. “Even if you’ve cheated with an artificial one, these can harbor dust which may trigger dust allergy reactions.”