Allergies? How to manage cedar fever

Cedar tree pollen a menace for many residents

Get ready Central Texas — those cedar trees are about to send a lot of pollen your way, and with it — allergy misery.

The cedar tree releases its pollen from December to February, causing many allergy sufferers to endure what’s called “cedar fever.”

Cedar fever symptoms include:

  • Irritated Itchy eyes
  • Itchy nose
  • Sinus congestion, sneezing
  • Usually clear mucus

“There is something about the mountain cedar pollen that is very allergenic,” said Dr. John Villacis, an allergist with ADC Allergy and Immunology. “It tends to cause a lot more allergy than most. And we just have quite a bit of it here in Central Texas. We have probably the highest concentration of mountain cedar – certainly in the US.”

cedar branch

The Mountain Cedar (Juniperus ashei) is an evergreen tree with a distinctive bark that peels and sheds. It grows in limestone areas in Texas, New Mexico, northern Mexico, Arkansas and Oklahoma. The Central Texas Hill Country is a favorite habitat for the tree and many residents and farmers consider it a pest because it has become overgrown.

“It starts pollinating around the third fourth week of December at high levels. And then the high levels usually lasts until the second or third week of February,” said Dr. Villacis. “Every year is bad. What depends is how bad.”

Dr. Villacis says there are a few things allergy sufferers can do to combat cedar pollen.

Cedar allergy treatments

  1. Avoid being exposed
    This is hard to do, Dr. Villacis admits, but avoidance is your first defense. Try staying inside, change your home filter, shower at night and wash bedding frequently.
  2. Start medications early in the season
    Dr. Villacis recommends beginning an allergy medication about two weeks before the season starts and continuing it throughout the season.
  3. Visit a board certified allergist
    Allergists have specific expertise in what combination of medications are best for allergy treatment or whether or not allergy shots may be helpful. They are also better able to test you to identify potential seasons you may have problems with.
  4. Allergy shots
    Allergy shots can be effective for all kinds of allergies. They don’t always completely solve the problem, but Dr. Villacis says they usually significantly improve the allergy response.