5 Festive Things That Could Give You The Seasonal Sniffles

From the Christmas cheeseboard to the tree in your living room, these are just some of the things that could be making your nose run.
Do you have the festive sniffles?
CSA-Archive via Getty Images / HuffPost UK
Do you have the festive sniffles?

It’s not just cold and flu season that can wreak havoc on your nostrils come December. There’s an array of festive foods, drinks and products which can leave you with the sniffles, too.

If it feels like your nose has been streaming for weeks now, this might be why.

Your Christmas Tree

In what sounds like a line straight out of The Grinch, yes, you could be allergic to your Christmas tree. Allergy UK dubs it “Christmas Tree Syndrome” and suggests symptoms are similar to hay fever – we’re talking itchy eyes, sneezing, runny nose, chest pains and coughing. Some people get a rash, too.

It is thought these allergies are triggered by mould growth, pollen on the tree, or possibly even dust build-up on branches. The issue can be particularly problematic for those with existing allergies or asthma.

Fake Christmas trees are generally better for those with allergies, according to the charity. However, it might also help to give your tree and decorations a good wipe down to remove any dust and mould which has built up during storage.

Festive Booze

We all know booze is bad for us. But did you know it might be to blame for your runny nose, too? It’s fairly common for people to experience allergy-like symptoms after drinking – usually as a result of an intolerance to alcohol or another ingredient in the beverage, such as sulphites. The severity of your symptoms will depend on the type of booze you drink.

Another possible reason for the drippy nose is histamines, which are present in a lot of boozy beverages and can cause other symptoms such as headaches, flushing, gut issues or even asthma. They are found in higher quantities in red wine, Champagne and beer – so steer clear if you’re prone to the post-bevvy sniffles.


Yes that’s right: that cheeseboard of dreams could be yet another thing giving you the sneezes. Again, it’s likely down to all the histamines you’re consuming – especially if you end up scoffing your body weight in cheese and red wine come Christmas. Aged cheeses are particularly high in histamines, as are cured meats.

In people with the intolerance, even small amounts of histamine in food can cause symptoms such as headaches, rashes, a runny or blocked nose, diarrhoea, nausea, vomiting or flushing. Symptoms may occur 30 minutes or more after eating.

Winter Fragrances

They might smell like heaven on earth but your festive-scented candles, diffusers and plug-ins could be leaving you sniffly. In 2011, allergists suggested that home fragrance products might cause respiratory problems – particularly for people with existing allergies including asthma.

At the time, allergy expert Stanley Fineman said: “We know air freshener fragrances can trigger allergy symptoms, aggravate existing allergies and worsen asthma.” He warned that many of these products contain volatile organic compounds (VOCs), which have been linked to negative health effects such as eye, nose and throat irritation; headaches; nausea; and allergic skin reactions.

So much for hygge, huh? Maybe don’t burn the candle at both ends.

Cold Weather

If you’ve got a permanently runny nose but don’t have any other symptoms of a cold, it might be time to blame the weather. The nose actually has a mechanism to warm the air you breathe during winter. When cold, dry air enters your nostrils it stimulates the nerves in your nose, according to David King, a senior lecturer at the University of Queensland.

These nerves send a message to your brain letting it know that it’s really quite nippy outside and your brain then responds by increasing blood flow to your nose, which helps warm the passing air on its way to your lungs.

It also makes your nose more moist – or snotty – to increase the humidity of the air entering your body. The phenomenon is also known as “cold-induced rhinitis” or “skier nose”, and some people are more sensitive than others.