AUSTIN (KXAN) - Warm and windy weather across Central Texas is causing the firstwidespread, heavy pollination of Mountain Cedar trees in our areathis season. The flying pollen is so thick in wooded areas ofwestern Travis County it looks like smoke.
Counts from two area allergy clinics today were both in the veryhigh category, with 3, 720 grains per cubic meter of air measuredat Austin Allergy Associates in north Austin, and 4,271 grains atAllergy and Asthma Associates, off Far West Boulevard. TheAllergy/Asthma/Immunology Clinic of Georgetown is reporting aremarkable number Monday: 18,830 grains, which is off thecharts.
Those with allergies in Central Texas are likely sufferingMonday and may not see relief for several days to come as morewarm, breezy weather is in the forecast much of this week.
Here is additional information about Cedar pollen from theAllergy, Asthma, and Immunology Clinic of Georgetown:
The pollen is very buoyant and may be carried by the air for miles. Among all the junipers, the mountain cedar has received the greatest attention as an allergen source. The toxic nature of the mountain cedar pollen may lie in its chemical nature. The allergic reactions to mountain cedar pollen appear to be attributable to a single, stable, glycoprotein, with high carbohydrate and low protein content. This contrasts with the majority of known allergens in pollen grains, which tend to be a mix of allergenic glycoproteins having much lower carbohydrate content. The high carbohydrate content in combination with high density make the pollen of Mountain Cedar unique in causing allergic rhinitis.
In addition to making a person feel ill due to allergies, this condition can interfere in a variety of ways with carrying out one's day to day responsibilities. Loss of sleep, limitation of activities, diminished productivity, poor concentration, emotional distress, irritability, fatigue, and practical problems such as repeated nose blowing and nose rubbing, all impact negatively on ability to carry out physical, social and work/school responsibilities effectively. Similar to other pollen allergens, mountain cedar pollens contact the lining tissue of a person's eyes, nose, and lungs. Therefore reducing the duration of exposure to these pollens is important.
If you live in Texas, and you have allergies, you probably suffer from cedar fever - the dreaded allergy symptoms brought on by the pollinating cedar tree each winter. Despite the name, you don't actually get a fever. Instead you get itchy, watery eyes; runny nose; and sneezing.
Cedar trees, also known as juniper trees (officially called Juniperus ashei), are evergreens that are predominant in Texas, especially the cities of Austin and San Antonio. The mountain cedar tree is the main culprit of allergies in Cedar Valley (named for its abundance of cedar) and the Texas Hill Country. But Texans are not the only sufferers. Many Western states have areas rich in cedar, including Colorado and New Mexico.
Though most trees pollinate in the spring, cedar trees pollinate in December, January, and February. If you live in cedar country, your best defense against pollen is to stay indoors as much as possible.
You cannot hide from the pollen completely, but there are steps you can take, even when indoors:
- Keep your doors and windows closed. Run the air conditioner when the pollen is extremely high.
- Cover your air conditioning vents with cheesecloth to help filtrate the pollen, and change the air conditioning filter often. You may want to use a HEPA (high efficiency particulate air) filter to help filtrate the pollen even more.
- Dust your home with a damp cloth, and vacuum carpets with a vacuum equipped with a HEPA filter each week.
- Take a shower and change your clothes after being outdoors for a long period of time. This will protect you from pollen that lands on your clothes and in your hair.
- Bathe pets often, even if they live indoors.
- Take allergy medicines exactly as prescribed. If you know cedar will be a problem for you each winter, see your doctor in early fall to update your treatment plan and stock up on prescription allergy medications.
- And, eliminate any male cedar trees in your yard by replacing them with good hardwoods like elm, ash, or oak.
If you must go outdoors, pay attention to pollen counts. Peak pollen production is between 5 a.m. and 10 a.m., and pollen counts are highest on warm, sunny days. If you do go outside, wear a painter's mask to cover your nose and mouth. When driving, keep your car windows up, and set your air conditioner on recirculate. The best times to venture out are on cool, cloudy days or during right after a rainfall. This is when pollen counts are typically lowest.
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