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An allergist’s top tips for dealing with cedar allergy season

One of the biggest problems in the fall and winter season for allergy sufferers—adults and kids alike—is mountain cedar (also known as ash juniper), which produces pollen in the wintertime and grows plentifully in the hill country.

What is “cedar fever?”

The cedar allergy season in Central Texas is caused by a few different but related plants. The plants are so closely related that the pollen they produce is almost identical under a microscope. The male trees appear to “smoke” as they release pollen from tiny cones. The female trees produce clusters of blue-green berries. The season typically lasts from December to February, peaking in mid-January.

Up to 20 percent of Central Texans suffer from cedar pollen allergies.

Allergies to cedar pollen are so significant that they’ve been dubbed “cedar fever,” although this is due to inflammation causing a slight increase in body temperature—not a true fever.

The mountain cedar trees are everywhere in this region of Texas and they produce enormous amounts of pollen, which can make people who are allergic feel miserable.

Remedies for cedar allergies

However, if you’re symptomatic to the point it is affecting your quality of life, you don’t have to suffer. There are some treatments your physician may be able to recommend for relief—but you have to start early.

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If you’re experiencing sneezing, a runny nose, itchy or watery eyes and congestion, your primary care doctor can typically suggest over-the-counter remedies, which includes nasal steroids, eye drops, antihistamines or salt-water rinses for the nose.

If that doesn’t help, your doctor may recommend a prescription antihistamine nose spray for symptom relief.

Lastly, if you’re still not getting relief, seeing an allergist and getting regular shots may be recommended by your doctor, which can be effective in 70 to 80 percent of patients. For cedar allergy, this involves getting regular injections of cedar pollen proteins that increase over time to help desensitize your body to its effects. Allergy drops are also an option, but they are not covered by most insurance companies.

Prepare for cedar season early

If you know you have a history of sensitivity to cedar, it is critical to get treatment started early. Being on medication before the season starts can help keep things manageable.

But don’t delay. If you go to an allergist in January, at the peak of cedar fever season, then they may not be able to do as much for you. Your immune system needs six to 12 months of allergy shots to build up immunity to specific triggers like cedar.

As for why some people suffer from allergies like cedar more than others, it’s mostly related to genetics. You may be genetically prone to getting allergies, but you also need to be living in a high-allergy environment, typically, in order for you to develop a problem.

Allergies affecting your quality of life? Find an allergy specialist near you.

About the author

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Victor A. Estrada, MD, is an allergist on the medical staff at Baylor Scott & White Medical Center – Temple.

An allergist’s top tips for dealing with cedar allergy season