Combating Winter Allergies in the UK

Most people don’t think of allergies as a threat during the winter. As a result, they often look forward to taking one less, little white pill for a few months out of the year. Unfortunately, that little perk is fading away as more British citizens are experiencing atypical winter allergy symptoms. So, who are the culprits causing this unusual phenomenon?

Ragweed Comes to the UK

One of the most recent offenders is ragweed, a plant native to the United States, that has managed to make its way to the UK and take root. Mild, wet winters have allowed this annoying plant to thrive. Physicians recommend avoiding fields and open parks early in the evening as this is the most common time for the plants to release pollen into the air.

Christmas Tree Allergy

It sounds crazy to think of your Christmas tree as the enemy, but it may very well be true. A surprising number of Brits are suffering from contact dermatitis caused by the branches, needles and resin found on their trees. Christmas firs are full of rosin, which is the root cause of these allergic reactions. Patients develop red, itchy skin that can lead to eczema if not treated properly.

Christmas trees also harbour mould fungi, which if inhaled, can result in asthma flare-ups, fatigue, sleep disorders, and even chest pain. Trees that are freshly felled should be sprayed down with water and allowed to dry outside of your home for a day or so. If possible, buy a live tree. It will dry out slower, and the mould and pollen won’t spread as quickly.

How to Avoid the Christmas Tree Blues 

If you don’t want to end up huddled on your couch for the next couple of months suffering at the hands (or branches) or your holiday decorations, consider these helpful hints:

  • Wear gloves when you decorate your tree so you’re less likely to come into contact with pollen or mould
  • Dust your other Christmas decorations before hanging them
  • Don’t keep your Christmas tree in your home for too long to avoid extended exposure to allergens
  • Don’t simply grin and bear it; purchase an artificial tree if your symptoms progress

Christmas trees aren’t the only ones that pollinate during the winter. Alders have been wreaking havoc on young school children in Switzerland for decades. So, if you feel lousy for longer than a couple of weeks this winter, visit your allergist for help.

By Jocasta Maryland

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