A GP has issued a warning to Brits putting up their Christmas trees and decorations about some of the potentially "negative" health effects involved.

It's the most wonderful time of the year with twinkle lights, baubles, tinsel and non-stop festive fun.

However, one medical professional has warned that the joyful activity of putting up and decorating your tree could be affecting your health - especially if you have a pre-existing condition like asthma or eczema. 

GP, Dr Bhavini Shah (GMC: 7090158) from LloydsPharmacy Online Doctor has urged Brits that their common cold symptoms could actually be allergies and what many call 'Christmas Tree syndrome'. 

Here's why your allergies worsen at this time of year and what you can do to ease the symptoms.

Why are my allergies so bad at Christmas?

“Whilst having a cold is synonymous with winter and it’s not unusual to be poorly at Christmas time, It may not be the common cold that’s causing your runny nose," according to Dr Shah.

The expert added: “A blocked or runny nose, itchy and watery eyes, sneezing and coughing could also be signs of allergies caused by your Christmas decorations.

“An allergy, which is an immune response, occurs when your immune system mistakenly identifies a harmless substance (allergen) as harmful.

"The immune system then produces antibodies which fight the foreign cells by releasing chemical substances. It is these substances that trigger an allergic reaction.”

What are the symptoms of Christmas Tree syndrome?

The GP has explained that the term “‘Christmas Tree Syndrome’ is used to "describe allergic reactions or respiratory issues that some people experience when they're around real Christmas trees".

It encompasses symptoms ranging from sneezing, coughing, itchy eyes and congestion, to even asthma flare-ups.

These signs can occur due to mould spores, pollen, or other allergens that may be could be present on your Christmas tree.

Dr Shah continued: “People with asthma may suffer from a flare-up of their symptoms or an attack where the airways constrict, which could cause difficulty breathing and wheezing.

"However, not everyone who experiences an allergic reaction around Christmas trees has asthma. Similarly, not everyone with asthma will experience an allergic reaction.”

Why am I having allergies in December?

The health expert has also explained five things that could be causing allergies to flare up in December from scented candles to dust mites.

Christmas tree pollen

“If you are allergic to pollen, you may experience hay fever, typically in the spring and summer months," Dr Shah notes.

He added: "However, Christmas trees can also contain pollen and therefore may trigger hay fever-like symptoms.

“If you are sensitive to pollen, or have asthma, it may be wise to buy an artificial Christmas tree instead of a live one.” 

Dusty Christmas decorations

“Christmas decorations are stored away collecting dust for much of the year. This means they can trigger allergies because dust often contains a mix of particles like pollen, mould spores and dust mites," the GP explained.

The expert continued: “When disturbed, such as when putting up the tree or decorating, the particles become airborne, potentially triggering allergic reactions in sensitive individuals.

“To avoid an allergic reaction from dusty decorations, wipe them down with a damp cloth before you decorate your home. You could also try storing them in airtight containers or vacuum bags when not in use.”

Dust mites 

Dr Shah notes that it's not just bringing dusty decorations out of storage that might trigger allergies.

With dust comes dust mites, according to the GP.

He added: "Dust mites are tiny harmless creatures, but their waste particles contain proteins that can trigger allergic reactions in some people.

“When individuals with dust mite allergies inhale these particles or come into contact with them, their immune system reacts by releasing histamine and other chemicals, leading to allergic reactions. 

“Common reactions include sneezing, runny or stuffy nose, itchy or watery eyes, coughing, wheezing, or skin rashes in more severe cases.”

Mould spores

The GP says that mould spores are a common allergen.

He went to say:" When people inhale or come into contact with these spores, especially if they are sensitive or allergic to moulds, it can trigger allergic reactions such as sneezing, coughing, wheezing, itchy eyes, and in some cases, more severe respiratory issues.

“Mould spores can be present on Christmas trees, particularly live trees like pine, fir, or spruce. Trees are grown outdoors where they can pick up mould spores from the surrounding environment, especially in damp or humid areas.

“When these trees are brought indoors and placed in a warm and dry environment, any existing spores can become airborne, potentially causing allergy symptoms.

“If you have asthma or a real tree has triggered allergies before, you might want to get an artificial tree rather than a real one.

"If you do opt for a real one, you should shake down the tree to remove as much dust, mould, and pollen as possible before bringing it into the house. 

"Keeping it in the coolest part of the house will avoid any mould spores multiplying.”

Recommended reading

Cooking Christmas dinner this year? 6 ways to save on your energy bills

Experts reveal the festive foods you shouldn't give your dog at Christmas dinner

Christmas scented candles

“Scented candles at Christmas time can trigger allergies or allergic-like reactions due to the chemicals and fragrances they contain," according to DR Shah.

The expert said: “Many scented candles contain synthetic fragrances, dyes, and additives that release volatile organic compounds (VOCs) when burned.

"These chemicals can irritate the respiratory system, leading to symptoms like coughing, sneezing, or congestion.

“If you are particularly sensitive, it’s best to avoid candles or opt for unscented candles instead.”