Julie Deverick: Christmas Tree Syndrome

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BSDHT's Julie Deverick: “O Christmas tree syndrome, how nasty art thy symptoms”

It sounds more like a poor Christmas joke you’d find inside a cracker than an actual medical condition, but for many people during the festive period, Christmas tree syndrome is no laughing matter.

But what is this festive condition and why does it occur? It all leads back to the introduction of Christmas trees into our homes. Many people forget that – much like flowers and long grasses – trees create pollen too. Inhaling this pollen can lead to nasty allergic responses that mimic the symptoms of hay fever.

It’s not just the pollen that causes this allergic response, though, and the main culprit is thought to be the mould that grows on Christmas trees when left in a warm environment, such as inside our homes. The spores of this mould can trigger the usual snuffly symptoms alongside asthma attacks and other potentially life-threatening responses.

According to some sources, almost a third of British people may suffer from Christmas tree syndrome, including children and young babies [1]. This means that as many as 22 million people could be suffering unnecessarily every year.

We also need to consider the potential effects that this allergic reaction can have on oral health. As with hay fever, dry mouth caused by allergic responses can quickly encourage increased levels of tooth decay. Pressure that builds up due to inflamed sinuses can also cause teeth to hurt, leading to consistent discomfort – something not particularly conducive to the festive spirit.

It’s worth asking patients who are suffering flu-like symptoms throughout the lead up to Christmas whether Christmas tree syndrome could be the culprit.

One good alternative may be an artificial tree, though even these can gather dust and set off allergies. Therefore, the best option is likely to be to tell patients about Christmas Tree Syndrome and perhaps discuss with them some possible alternatives, such as keeping their tree outside in the garden where it won’t impact their allergies as much.

In the end, the lead up to Christmas should be fun and festive and not made miserable by mould. By telling patients about this little-known condition you can help them avoid allergic responses and their possible effects on oral health.

Author:

Julie Deverick is the BSDHT President. Julie has over 30-years-experience as a dental hygienist, during which time she has also gained skills in teaching, management and administration which help her in her BSDHT role.

Julie continues to work in practice so she understands some of the frustrations and limitations of the job, which is why she is keen to continue supporting members of BSDHT by working with the Executive Committee and others, to break the barriers that confine dental hygienists and dental therapists in the workplace. 

Reference 

1] The Independent. Christmas Tree Syndrome: How Your Festive Fir Could Be Making You Ill. Link: Click HERE. [Last accessed August 19]. 

Photo by Arun Kuchibhotla on Unsplash