Ah, the scent of a piney Christmas tree, filling your home with love, light, good cheer – and mold spores! Yes, trees decay and release mold spores into the air. And right about now, when the tree has been in your home at least a week, is when the sneezing and wheezing begins.

(We are feeling Gringe-like, since last week we blogged about the dangers of lead contamination in artificial Christmas trees. We honestly don’t want to spoil anyone’s Christmas season. But we want to keep you and your family safe!)

Connecticut researchers have discovered that the mold count from a live Christmas tree rose to five times the normal level two weeks after the tree was brought indoors. According to Philip Hemmers, MD, an allergist and immunologist with St. Vincent’s Medical Center in Bridgeport, Conn., the high levels of the mold correlate with allergic rhinitis and an increased rate of asthma symptoms and asthma-related hospitalizations in other studies. Dr. Hemmers’ advice: If you don’t feel well during the holidays, your evergreen Christmas tree could be the culprit.

He recommends people with mold sensitivity keep a live Christmas tree in their home for only four to seven days. Signs of mold sensitivity can include chronic allergies, headaches, fatigue, skin rashes, throat and eye irritations, wheezing, and many respiratory problems including asthma.

Once the tree is discarded, vacuum and dust well. To be sure you’ve removed any mold spores, and to see if mold is growing even in places you can’t see, call an environmental testing company.

“Getting your home tested for mold now can save you big headaches later,” says Robert Weitz, a certified microbial investigator. “Most people wait months, long after a mold infestation has taken root, before they deal with the problem. Once this happens, repairs are often extensive and very expensive. I’ve seen people who had to leave their homes for extended periods while these problems were being remedied.”

Weitz is a principal at RTK Environmental Group, the Northeast’s leading environmental testing company. For more information or to schedule an appointment to have your home tested for mold, click here.