Yet another allergen identified in Wesley. Bummer.

God.  He’s so funny.

I’m not cursing here, I’m literally talking about God’s sense of humor, which, at times, seems extremely ironic.

Martin came to me last night and said, “Holy revelations, Batman!”  And I said, “Kapow!  What is it?”  His eyes wide, he said, “Wes’ asthma.  Christmas tree.”

It sunk in in about 0.000002 seconds.  Of course.

On top of my illness (which is on day #10 now), and Audrey’s month-long diarrhea (which I think is related to the amaranth flour in the 2 billion cookies I baked this month), Wesley has been having daily asthma attacks since early December.  Since discovering that dairy was at the heart of his severe asthma last March, and we went dairy/casein-free, it had literally been months since we’d used his SVN/nebulizer/breathing machine.  But for the last month or so, it’s back up to 1-3 times a day.  I can remember that the night we brought the tree home, we had to give him a breathing treatment.  However, we’d been out in the chilly, rainy night, and we thought that was the culprit.  I guess not.

On top of the Christmas tree connection, Wesley has really struggled to breathe in our family’s last two trips to Colorado — the pine-filled, lovely Colorado.

I’ve done a little looking online, and it turns out that there’s even been documented, published medical studies of the increased incidence of asthma in pine sawmill workers.  Since pine pollen is fairly large and coated with a waxy substance, the pollen isn’t usually the culprit.  It’s the chemical outgassing of pine turpenes — chemicals that make that lovely piney smell.  Pine turpenes are also a known trigger for Multiple Chemical Sensitivity (MCS) symptoms.  Wes doesn’t have MCS, but obviously, other people have had documented difficulty with pine turpenes.

The reason this is so funny/not-funny to me is that I’ve sworn for years that I will never, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever get a fake Christmas tree.  I adore the whole process of shopping for a tree, struggling to get it straight in the stand, and the pungent pine scent which fills the home for weeks.  I even like the pine tar stains on our leather work gloves, and vacuuming up pine needles for weeks after the tree is gone.  The Christmas tree — REAL Christmas trees — are just such a wonderful part of our Christmas traditions, and I cannot fathom having a fake tree in our home.  I think I need to repent of thinking less of any family who has a fake tree.  (Humbled, yet again.)

But, as both Wes and Grant were weeping over not having a real tree (they heard me talking about it on the phone with Martin this morning), I had to explain that Wesley’s ability to breathe trumps having a real tree, and that is that, unless we hop him up on Benadryl all December or something, which I am loathe to do. 

So, right now, at the curb of our home, is this year’s Christmas tree, awaiting our city’s free pickup service.  Perhaps (sigh), it’s our last real tree.  Although this page suggests that a person allergic to spruce may not be allergic to fir;  IOW, evergreen tree allergies can be very specific.  So, I guess we have 11 months or so to determine what to do.


About Karen Joy

I'm a partially-homeschooling mother of six -- 3 boys ages 19, 17 and 15 years old, and three girls: 11, 8, and 3. I like birding, reading, writing, organic gardening, singing, playing guitar, hiking, the outdoors, and books. I very casually lead a very large group of homeschooling families in the Phoenix area. I have a dear hubby who designs homes for a local home builder and who is the worship pastor of our church. I live in the desert, which I used to hate, but now appreciate.

Posted on January 3, 2008, in Allergies, Christmas, Colorado, Dairy-free, Digestive Woes, Medical Stuff, The Kids. Bookmark the permalink. 15 Comments.

  1. Fake is not so bad. That is all I have ever had. Nowadays, this week if you hurry, you can get a prelit tree, a nice tall one. It is not so bad, I promise. I have three trees, we put two up this year. I love Christmas trees. Sorry about the allergies. I had a small pine for my table that we decorated when in AZ, a small potted pine may not be so bad for Wes, and of course a large fake.

  2. I hear you. I used to be a bit smug about buying a real tree—even to the point of pooh-poohing a SIL who said she was allergic. Sure, I’d say, not truly believing her.

    Then I began having bronchitis around the holidays and would take down the tree on Christmas night. Then it dawned on me. Duh.

    I’m allergic to cats too.

    Neither were problems when I was younger, but seemed to appear after babies arrived. Go figure.

  3. I am terribly allergic to pine and got a fake tree this year (though we were traveling and didn’t even put it up) … so I was very pleasantly surprised when a friend’s fir tree caused NO reaction even though I was in front of it for hours. Maybe you can put him around fir trees (without pine there, somehow) and see what happens before next Christmas season.

  4. I am also allergic to Christmas trees…I went to the doctor and told him that I’d had a sinus infection every year at Christmas and that I thought I was allergic to the trees. He told me that I had not had one the year before and I remembered that we had gone to Florida and had not had a tree.

    Life is better with a plastic tree…

  5. Holy cow! I had no idea that this was so common! We’ve had MORE than our share of allergies, but allergic to Christmas trees seemed just unbelievable to me.

    I’m glad to hear, Sally, that you’re not allergic to firs. I wonder how we could experiment w/ that w/o spending the big bucks on a tree only to find out he’s allergic to that kind, too…

  6. Rubber Chicken Girl

    I swore I’d never go fake either. But every year at Christmastime, we had A. NO money to plop down the 25 bucks or more AND B. No time to go pick one. Always low on time and cash. So, we just decided to buy a fake one after Christmas HALF price or less ( I think I spent 25 bucks) and now the 25 bucks is perpetually extending itself. And if we ever buy a really nice one, we can free cycle this one. Funny about all this is that I was just wishing again we had a real one, but Darin reminded me of all the reasons we made the choice we did. It is a totally weird thing for someone from the sage and pine to have one!! Humility is a lovely thing. Yes, I have a lame fake tree. I am one of those.

    Then again, I don’t put a whole host of stock in those skin prick allergy tests, but could you do one of those with various fir/pine trees??

  7. Wow! I had never heard of an allergy to Christmas trees either and here are all these stories about it! Amazing! I’ve never had a real tree – when I was a kid and as an adult we’ve always had a fake tree. I like it better that way. Like RCG said you pay for it once and it just keeps on giving. 🙂 You also only have to go to the garage to get it, bring it in and unpack it and then after Christmas put it back in the box and in the garage! So simple. 🙂 Lisa gave a good tip too – go look now, they’ll be really cheap!!

  8. you CAN make memories w/ fake trees. I grew up going to a ‘farm’ to cut them down. DH grew up ‘putting the branches into the trunk. Since DH has allergies (and probably DS) we went w/ the fake. I tell ya- going out for the real one is over rated! And if you want the pine sent, put a candle in the bathroom and take a bath when no one else is around… BWHAA!!! and that would be when??!! (a side note on all the allergies- have you ever looked at leaky gut. That can be a ‘reason’ for all the allergies. just mentioning it. not so much the enviromental- but the food ones.)

  9. Count me in with the poor Fake is Better than Illness saps.

    We had a fake tree when I was a kid. It was a great tree. It had needles instead of those plastic table cover shreds like my current tree.

    My oldest son and I stopped having lung gunk every year when we stopped getting real trees and started using those abominable fake trees. I also stopped having so many sinus and ear infections during that time.

    We usually got Doug firs and it must also be firs in our backyard because I cannot clean up the needles in the spring without getting congested and itchy eyed. All of this seems to have come on in adulthood like my food allergies, or maybe they were always there and just become impossible to miss.

    I’m sorry about your new allergy. I can sympathize with you on this one, but you will feel so much better about it when you’ve gone through a Christmas season without getting sick from the tree. I love the pine fragrance, too, but what can ya do?

  10. My mom just bought one of those retro aluminum trees with the color wheel. Not exactly pretty, but very entertaining.

  11. That sounds like something requiring pictures, Daja!

  12. Karen, I was at Garden Ridge Pottery today – I don’t know if you have those there but their Christmas stuff is 75% off and they had some great Christmas trees! I thought of you as I was walking through them all. 🙂

  13. What a bummer, indeed. But, like some others have said, you’ll enjoy the fake tree. I haven’t stepped on a pine needle any time of the year for nearly four years now. We bought a big fancy one. It has fiber optic lighting. Start saving your money now, though. The good ones are rather pricey. Of course, they pay for themselves in about two or three Christmas’ so it’s worth it in the long run.

    Now, the real problem will be those trips to CO. I don’t know what I’d do if my kids turned up allergic to pine. I love the mountains and to never be able to visit them would really be a bummer. 😦

  14. Shellie ~ Ah, humility. It rears its head, yet again, in the most unexpected of places!! Actually, I was thinking about the skin-prick thing, too.

    Amy ~ I had to laugh about the bath!! It’s been my goal, since I had kids, to take at least one bath a MONTH, and I don’t think I’ve done even that in a good 4-5 months. I mean, I shower, but I really enjoy a good soak. About leaky gut — I’ve heard of it — really, once you’ve heard that term, can you ever forget it???? Eek. I’ll check into it. For my kids, I think they (especially the two younger ones) just got the worst of both worlds from my hubby and me — asthma and allergies from him, celiac disease from me. BUT, I have been giving more thought to investigating a “deeper cause” to all our weird-o health problems.

    Mrs. N ~ “Fakeness is Better Than Illness” — that’ll be my new mantra. Actually, when I read your comment, I realized that, I, too, have gotten quite ill around Christmas time for at least the last three years, lung gunk included. Hm. Maybe the tree is/was affecting me, too??????

    Daja ~ That’s a hoot! I knew some people who have (had?) one of those. I think I embarrassed them, because I thought it was a retro-joke kind of thing, but they had it because they really thought it was pretty. I can still see the colors spinning now…

    MLBAH ~ Nope! No Garden Ridge Pottery. We have plenty of places to buy trees, though… a local chain of pool supply/patio furniture stores turns into Christmas-supply over the winter. They’d be perfect to check out, but have I? No. Actually, money’s been tight — that lack of a Christmas bonus is still leaving things stretched around here… I’m still not sure what I’ll do for next year.

    DBM ~ Ack!! Are you trying to take away another tradition??? Just kidding. I’m the Lights and Garlands Maven at my home, though. Dad sets up the tree (with help from me), I do the lights and garlands, then I pass out the ornaments to all the kids, who do the actual decorating (then my hubby and I un-clump the ornaments, after the kids go to bed). Still, with Wes still needing a breathing treatment at night, TWO WEEKS after the tree is gone, it’s looking like it’ll be a fakey next year. 😦

  15. I react to terpenes as well. Christmas trees are also really high in mold and, if you buy one at a store instead of cutting one yourself, they can also have scent sprayed on them –sigh– the silly things humans do 😉

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