It might be hard to believe but the Christmas festivities can leave you open to allergic reactions and make you seriously ill.

Fir tress, scented candles and dust can leave you tight chested, short of breath and itchy but they could also lead to more serious problems.

Here, Dr Alexandra Phelan from online chemist Pharmacy2U explains the triggers that could set you off.

Your Christmas tree

Most of us associate hay fever with the summer but it can be set off by the sticky sap released by real Christmas trees and spark allergic reactions. As a precaution you should spray your tree with water before bringing it indoors, wear thick gardening gloves and cover any bare skin when handling the tree. Consider putting up an artificial tree if your symptoms are bad.


For anyone with rhinitis, dust allergies or asthma coming into contact with a dusty tree or decorations can set off symptoms. Make sure you store your tree in a box and get someone without an allergy to get it down from the loft for you. If handling it yourself make sure you wear a dust mask and give the tree a good hose down.

Festive candles

We all like to make our houses warm and cosy during winter. However, the perfume in scented candles can aggravate you, especially when burnt in small spaces. If you have perfume or other allergies use non-scented candles or get the fairy lights out instead.


Food allergies and intolerances are on the rise; according to Allergy UK, each year the number of allergy suffers increases by 5% - with half of those being children.

Food allergies can come on quickly and can induce sickness or a severe reaction called anaphylaxis. Ask your guests if they have any allergies - avoid cross contamination of food and have a stock of 'free-from' foods in just in case.

Pop allergies in the bud

6% of the population now have an allergy to latex rubber. Health care workers and those who have had lots of surgery are more likely to have a latex allergy. It is found in poinsettias, the red plants that people bring into their homes during the festive season.

If you know someone who has a latex allergy keep this plant out of your house.

What does an allergic reaction look like?

Allergic reactions can happen quickly; within a few minutes of being exposed to an allergen. Mild symptoms include sneezing, itching, rash, tight chest, watery eyes and nose and worsening of asthma or eczema. These symptoms should be treated with antihistamines and by removing the allergen around you.

If the symptoms do not settle using this method medical advice should be sought. A severe allergic reaction is called anaphylactic shock and is characterised by struggling to breathe, sickness, severe swelling and unconsciousness. If someone starts having these symptoms ring 999 immediately - and if they have an epi-pen use it on them.