Central Texas’ cedar pollen explosion explained

AUSTIN (KXAN) – Today’s cedar pollen count is breaking records. It’s the third highest pollen count recorded in the metro area since the mid-1990s. For most of the country, the colder months mean a respite for allergy sufferers, but Central Texans aren’t as lucky.

“Winter is usually the best time when it comes to allergies, but here in Central Texas we have a unique shrub.” That shrub, according to Dr. Sheila Amar with the Allergy and Asthma Center of Georgetown, is the Mountain Cedar. Unlike most plants, the Mountain Cedar blooms during the winter months, releasing its pollen into the atmosphere over Central Texas.

Most Mountain Cedar can be found in Central Texas, but the tree ranges north to the southern part of Kansas.

How allergies work

According to Dr Amar, allergies are a genetic condition. “It’s inherited. Everyone’s genes are different, everyone’s exposure is different, so they react in different ways.” Because of this, your symptoms may vary.

Just around the KXAN newsroom today, we’ve had runny noses, coughs, headaches and watery eyes. Some people may have all these symptoms, some may have only a few. You may have all of them and not even know it, with more aggressive symptoms distracting you from a scratchy throat.

Because reactions vary, treatments vary and are unique from person-to-person. For example, if a child has asthma and their brother doesn’t, they may each take different medicines.

Five years in Austin and no allergies

You may have heard that cedar allergies only start after someone has lived in Central Texas for several years, but that’s not how it works. “If you move to a place like this, if you are susceptible to becoming an allergic person, sometimes it can be immediate within a year, sometimes it can take five or six years,” says Dr. Amar.

If you think you are or are at risk for becoming allergic, Dr. Amar says the best thing you can do is limit your time outdoors, wash your clothes and hair, and keep your pets in a separate part of the house.

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