FESTIVE FAIL: ‘I’m allergic to Christmas trees!’

Oh Christmas tree...
Jason Leung on Unsplash/Supplied

Niki Waldegrave, 39, from Brookvale, NSW, was stunned when she looked in the mirror after decorating her tree. Here, Niki tells the story in her own words.

‘This one’s perfect,’ I cried to my husband Steve, eyeing up a bushy two-metre Christmas tree for sale outside our local store.

‘Okay, let’s get it,’ he agreed.

So, after shelling out $120, we strapped it onto the roof of our car.

As soon as I had touched it I felt itchy. Being an eczema sufferer, I had sensitive skin, so I just brushed it off.

Back home, I decorated the branches with our son, Ernie, then six.

‘This is fun, isn’t it?’ I said, placing a star on top of the tree.

‘Yeah,’ he grinned, throwing silver tinsel on a branch.

I was so excited to have a real tree as I’d not had one before – growing up in the UK, we’d always had a fake one.

But this would be the first Christmas in our new home, and I wanted to make the festivities extra special.

Nothing said ‘Christmas’ quite like the heady smell of pine and presents beneath a real tree!

Niki Waldegrave
I love Christmas! (Credit: Supplied)
Niki Waldegrave
We enjoyed Christmas in Lapland in 2018. (Credit: Supplied)

While decorating, though, I couldn’t stop scratching. Looking in a mirror, I saw that my face, arms and chest were covered in hives!

Was I allergic to the tree?

I’d had allergies all my life. Pineapple and dark chocolate gave me mouth ulcers, and pollen and cats made my eyes water.

But I never dreamt I’d be allergic to a Christmas tree!

Niki Waldegrave
The angry welts. (Credit: Supplied)

So I had a cool bath, which usually calmed my eczema, and went to bed.

In the morning, I got the shock of my life. I was covered in angry red welts and bleeding blisters, and my sheets were splattered with blood from where I’d been scratching all night!

‘Oh God,’ I cried, running to the bathroom mirror.

I was stunned to see my eyes and face were puffy, and my head had swollen to the size of a football.

I was wheezing too. Scared I’d go into anaphylactic shock, I took an antihistamine but it did nothing.

‘Let’s get you to hospital,’ exclaimed Steve.

There, I was given a high dose of steroids and antibiotics.

‘You’re allergic to your Christmas tree,’ the doctor said, when I told him what happened.

‘Get it out of your house straight away.’

I even learnt my allergy had a name – Christmas Tree Syndrome!

Back home, Steve got rid of the tree while I slathered myself in eczema and psoriasis cream.

Over the next few days, my skin calmed down and my swollen head and puffed up eyes returned to normal.

It was, however, the worst allergic reaction I’d ever had and the scariest experience of my life.

So this year, we’ll definitely be having an artificial tree.

Sometimes, as I discovered, you just have to fake it!

Christmas Tree Syndrome

• Around December, some people experience respiratory allergies known as ‘Christmas Tree Syndrome’.

• Symptoms can include itchy eyes, coughing, chest pains, asthma attacks, fatigue and sinus congestion.

• These allergies are triggered by mould growth and pollen on the Christmas tree.

How to avoid Christmas Tree Syndrome 

Melody Livingstone, CEO of Australian natural skin care brand, MooGoo, shares the five best ways to avoid Christmas Tree Syndrome:

Clean the tree: Try and remove some of the mould, pollen and dirt from a real tree by hosing it off and once dry, running a vacuum cleaner over the leaves to further dislodge the dust.

Install an air purifier near the tree: These can help remove pollen and other particle pollutants from the home.


Minimise exposure: Try keep your tree up for the shortest time possible – that means taking it down the day after New Year. Next year even delay putting it up until a few days before Christmas.


Protect your skin when decorating: Make sure you’re wearing long sleeves and gloves to avoid pine needles or sap coming into contact with your skin. Best to change clothes after the tree is decorated as well.


Find the right treatment: If you do find you’re getting a reaction to the tree, make sure you use products designed for sensitive skin or it can cause more irritation. If the symptoms persist you might need to seek medical treatment.

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