Winter in the Austin area can be rough for its residents.  It’s not the act of shoveling snow or de-icing your car but a tree called Mountain Cedar.  Mountain Cedar, formally known asJuniper Ashei, is an ever-green tree with grey-brown shredding bark. Mountain Cedar grows to about 30 feet tall in the limestone plateaus of central Texas.  After the first cold snap, the buds on the male cedar tree open up, the wind then picks up the pollen and it travels for miles in the air. Take a drive down 620 during the height of Cedar season and you will see a haze that fills the valley. This haze is not pollution, it is the pollen rising from the trees. It is considered one of the most allergenic pollens in the country.

What is cedar fever?

“Cedar Fever” is a misnomer. You don’t exactly get a true fever, even though the inflammation from your allergies may slightly raise your temperature. It is not an infection. Many people experience itchy eyes, itchy/runny nose, sneezing, nasal blockage, itching of the palate, post-nasal drainage, and excess tearing. Some people may experience fatigue, mild headache, facial discomfort, sore throat, partial loss of sense of smell, and a sensation of ear plugging. If these symptoms persist they can lead to an infection of the sinuses, and even make asthma and/or eczema worsen.

What are some ways to treat or lessen my cedar allergy symptoms?

Avoidance is the best measure for one suffering from cedar fever.  This can be achieved by keeping windows and doors closed, especially if it is windy. Wear a dust mask while working outside.  When you come inside wash your hands, face, and clothing. Rinse your sinuses with a nasal saline spray or neti pot to remove pollen debris. Lessening your exposure time will consequently lessen your symptoms.

Medications can be effective if used properly and started at the appropriate time.  There are many medications to choose from both over the counter and prescription. Some common types of medications are antihistamines, nasal sprays, leukotriene inhibitors, and various inhalers.  It is important to consult with a physician to determine the best treatment plan for you.  While medications may alleviate the symptoms, they will not address the underlying immune process.

Immunotherapy is another treatment option.  Immunotherapy is a holistic treatment protocol that is used to make people less sensitive to allergens. When a person develops an allergy to something such as Mountain Cedar their immune system is overreacting to a harmless substance.  Immunotherapy works by slowly making your body less responsive to the inhaled allergens over the course of several months to years.  Immunotherapy desensitizes your immune system by making the system more familiar to allergens you come into contact with and preventing an overreaction.  After the completion of a course of immunotherapy your symptoms should lessen or resolve, and you should require less medication.

A board certified allergist can help you formulate a treatment plan that is effective and individualized to your specific needs.