Decorating for the season is a standard part of many family holidays. Whether it’s breaking out the menorah for Hanukkah or kinara for Kwanzaa, decorations for holiday seasons have become extremely important to many families across the United States and beyond. One of the most recognizable holiday decorations comes in the form of one very well lit fir: the Christmas Tree! For many who recognize Christmas, however, the tree is more than a symbol of the season. Instead, it is an omen for the rash you’re likely to get after setting it up. Rudolph’s nose has nothing on the bright red rash that many experience on their hands and forearms after decorating the tree. This week, we’re going to talk about the rash caused by Christmas trees, real or fake, what causes it, and how to prevent it. (Note that we’re not talking about psoriasis which is sometimes called a “Christmas tree rash” due to the shape it takes when it spreads to an individual’s back. Rather, we’re going to look at the reactions some with sensitive skin experience after handling Christmas trees. If you’re having a severe breakout due to psoriasis, talk to a dermatologist immediately.)

Want to learn more?

Have questions?
Want to schedule a consultation?

Rash after putting up live Christmas Tree

“Christmas Tree Syndrome” as it’s sometimes called can cause red, itchy skin on the hands and forearms, eye irritation, sneezing, and other symptoms commonly associated with allergies. Actually, if you have a live tree, you’re most likely to get Christmas tree syndrome if you are prone to allergies. Mold spores in live trees, as well as the pine oils and other natural substances present on the surface of the needles and branches, can cause allergic reactions in some people. Wearing long sleeves and gloves while setting up your tree can prevent most of the irritation. However, make sure the sleeves are thick and that you wash all clothing which came into contact with the tree immediately after it’s decorated. Pine needles can poke through thin sleeves and cause irritation; additionally, pine oils and mold spores from the tree can live on clothes and transfer to skin very quickly, so make washing your tree decorating outfit a priority!

christmas tree rashes

Rash after putting up fake Christmas Tree

Irritated skin is not a phenomenon exclusive to those with live Christmas trees. Many who use artificial trees are also subject to the red, itchy skin of Christmas tree syndrome. If mold spores and oils cause live trees irritating skin, what sparks irritation from fake Christmas trees? For the most part, improper storage is to blame. Dust and dirt particles collect on trees (yes, even those in boxes) while they sit in storage. Anyone who has put up a fake tree knows you have to “fluff” the branches by hand. Irritation happens when the hands and arms receive numerous micro abrasions and scratches from the plastic needles. When dust and dirt particles get in these cuts, it causes irritation for some with sensitive skin. Similar to live trees, wearing gloves and long sleeves can help deter irritants from collecting on the skin. Also, wiping down artificial trees before use and storing them properly in a dry, cool place using a plastic tub or wrapping for the rest of the year can help keep the dust at bay.

How to treat rash caused by Christmas Tree

The best way to save your skin from Christmas tree syndrome is to prevent contact with the irritant in the ways we mentioned above: cover your skin well with gloves and long, thick sleeves, wash your clothes when you’re done, and store artificial trees in a way that prevents dust from collecting. If you already put up your tree and you’re reading this blog because you want to treat your irritated skin wash your hands and arms immediately! Use antibacterial soap to rid your skin of any of the possible irritants we mentioned. Then, cover the entire affected area in a thick layer of unscented lotion to relieve itchiness. The symptoms should go away in a few short hours. For a more severe reaction, you may also need to use cold packs on irritated areas to lessen the itching.

christmas tree rashes

Share this article with a Christmas tree syndrome sufferer and let them know they can decorate the tree irritation free this year. Finally, don’t forget our advice when you’re disassembling your tree in a few weeks!