Health Watch -- Have a Sneeze-Free Season

Health Watch is a Public Service of the  Office of News and Publications and is intended to provide general information only and should not replace the advice of a medical professional. You should contact your physician if you have questions about any of these topics.

A holiday tradition could make some people miserable.

It's just like something you'd see in an old movie - heading off into the hills with the kids to cut down a Christmas tree to bring home. But doctors at UT Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas say if you choose the wrong tree, you could make the holiday season miserable.

About one in ten people are allergic to mountain cedar pollen, and these trees release their pollen just at the time you'd be bringing them indoors to decorate. If someone in your home is allergic to mountain cedar pollen, they're in for weeks of sneezing and sniffling.

Fortunately, this is only a real risk for people who like to go out into the wild and cut their own trees. The Scotch pines and Douglas firs you find at most Christmas tree lots or cut-it-yourself Christmas tree farms don't pollinate during the winter.

But Dr. Dave Khan, a UT Southwestern allergy expert, says you may still have some allergy issues. Anything brought in from outdoors is likely to bring mold spores with it. A lot of people are allergic to mold. You can have a live tree treated with fungicide to kill off the mold spores.

If you have allergy sufferers in your family, Dr. Khan says an artificial tree may be your best bet. Just be sure to store it in a dust-free environment. If you keep it out in the garage where it spends the rest of the year collecting dust, you may cause problems for people with dust allergies.