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Colin and Justin's Guide to Allergy-Friendly Christmas Decor

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OMG; who knew the humble Christmas tree could send you into allergenic meltdown? Or that an undusted festive bauble could ruin the party? Studying a recent survey by Claritin (which highlights heavy allergy prevalence during the holiday period, not just during warmer months) we were flabbergasted by what we learned. The survey noted that six in ten Canadian allergy sufferers describe their allergies as moderate to severe, and that the most common home allergy triggers were dust (79 per cent), pets (68 per cent), and carpets (54 per cent).

Yup, it's fair to report that, during the holiday season, Canadians sneeze themselves into high orbit. In the Claritin survey, an astonishing 43 per cent admit taking their (or their partners') allergies into consideration when choosing holiday décor.

Allergies, we learned, also impact upon socializing; nearly one-in-three of those questioned said they'd decline a festive invitation in case the host's home had allergens that might make them, or their family, uncomfortable. And we thought our aversion to bad taste was an issue. Hey, we'll think twice before turning our noses up next time we're confronted by an avocado bathroom suite or a velour shell shaped sofa!

And so, in our quest to help Canada breathe more easily, we've compiled a guide. Followed carefully, it should alleviate at least some allergic woes because, frustrating as it sounds, air bound respiratory system nuisance and contact allergies can really spoil the party.

Real Christmas Trees: Our tree top tips

Christmas trees, unfortunately, can be a whole load of trouble. Real trees, you see, are a haven for dust and pollen. And that's not all; factor in allergies to tree sap and pesticides and major problems can lie in store for those with allergic tendencies.

Choose an allergy-friendly tree: Avoid pine trees, as their pollen, on this genus of arbor, can be a major respiratory trigger. Fir and spruce are better, with the Leyland Cypress, a sterile hybrid, standing as a good choice as it doesn't produce pollen.

Spin class: Some tree farms have mechanical shakers to remove dead needles as well as some dust and mold. Enquire at point of sale and, if information isn't available, take your business elsewhere.

Wet it and forget it: Before dragging your tree indoors, hose it down with water and dry overnight in the garage. Be sensible; if you already know you have allergy issues, wear a builder's mask or get someone else to help. And take a tip; after cleaning, spray with Nature Clean veggie soak http://www.naturecleanliving.com/fruit_veggie_wash_concentrate to remove pesticides that have been sprayed on the branches -- these are another major irritant.

Faking it

Keep it clean: If your synthetic tree has been stashed in the garage or attic since last year, it's probably full of dust and even mold. So haul it into the garden and give it a good wash (just like a real tree) and allow to dry thoroughly before bringing indoors.

Gassy?: Choose a polyethylene tree with less PVC content and you'll cut down on gasses while being kinder to your home and the environment as well. Home Depot stocks this type of product. If tree packaging doesn't tell you about product composition, move on to one that does.

Planet aware: Seek out tree 'alternatives'. Choose from driftwood covered wire framed shapes; Homesense offers a super range in various sizes. Alternatively, consider a cardboard tree like the ones produced by Boutique Cascades. We used them recently while hosting design segments on Cityline and our social media accounts went into inquisitive meltdown. Conveniently flat packed, they're delivered in four-foot-long envelopes. We love!

Tips for Christmas decorations

Polish your balls and dust off your baubles: These, if they've been lying around, may be coated in grime or mold. If possible, unwrap them outdoors to avoid spreading dust inside. Wipe off with a soft cloth before hanging. At the end of the season, wrap in fresh paper, rather than re-using old paper. Come on; a little care makes so much sense.

Clean your artificial wreaths: Vacuum or dust with a soft cloth. Use a vacuum with a Hepa filter, like the Dyson Animal, and keep dust in the cleaner, rather than in the air.

Real wreaths: Treat these, to reduce allergens, in exactly the same way as you would real Christmas trees.

Dodge cheap scented candles: These can cause stuffy noses and irritated lungs. If you crave a little atmosphere, try unscented beeswax candles. Or opt for a good quality soy wax candle. Packaging should explain the difference between synthetic laboratory created 'fragranced' oils and less problematic 'essential' oils derived from real plants and flowers.

Buy local: Visit Christmas fairs and invest in small independent makers who can tell you all about manufacturing and provenance. We've long since had a fondness for smaller makers and craftspeople. Their product is also likely to have a smaller impact on carbon footprint due to minimal shipping, haulage and international transit.

Green card: When you display Christmas cards on a mantle or along shelves, you'd be amazed at the dust that accumulates. And when you've dozens of cards to juggle, who can be bothered lifting , and then re-arranging, to get in with a cloth and polish? Come on; you'll be far too busy knocking back mulled wine and chowing down on delicious mince pies to play Mrs Mop. So do yourself a favour -- get wired! Display Christmas cards in a holder like this, then use it throughout the year to show family photos. Simply lift in one go, wipe down surfaces and pop back in place.

For more information about handling allergies indoors and out (thereby improving your fun during the holidays!) visit www.claritin.ca