Brace yourself: Mountain cedar season, Mother Nature’s annual winter irritant that prompts noses to run and eyes to itch – and can make a happy new year miserable – is just around the corner.
Allergy season is always bad in North Texas. The Allergy and Asthma Foundation of America lists the DFW Metroplex as number 23 among the worst 100 metropolitan areas for allergy sufferers, and each year seems to be the worst ever. The warm weather we’ve had in 2017 has delayed mountain cedar season, but all it takes is a hard freeze to initiate the release of pollen.
Once the season starts, it’s often an alarming sight. No, that’s not yellow snow covering your car, patio furniture, and plants. It’s pollen from Juniperus ashei (Ashe juniper, also known as mountain cedar, post cedar, or blueberry juniper), a drought-tolerant evergreen tree native to the Southwestern U.S. and northeastern Mexico, with thick concentrations in the Texas Hill Country.
Many people with seasonal allergies are allergic to mountain cedar, which is the dominant winter pollen in North Texas. In patients allergic to mountain cedar, it can definitely worsen asthma symptoms and, if untreated, makes winter miserable. Uncontrolled allergies can also lead to sinus infections and pneumonia.
Minimize your exposure
People with allergies can start their defenses at home by replacing air conditioning filters, closing windows, avoiding the outdoors as much as possible – even moving vehicles into garages – and adopting a frequent clean/rinse cycle for themselves, their clothes, and their pets.
If needed, there is a host of medication options available – including topical antihistamines, decongestants, and nasal steroids – which can help in concert with a considered medical plan of attack.
A board-certified allergist is your best choice to correctly diagnose the problem and select appropriate therapies. Allergy testing also can provide useful information to guide therapy.
If medications don’t control symptoms, allergy shots may be an option. Allergy shots are the closest thing we have to a “cure’” for allergies, as they teach the immune system not to be allergic. Rush immunotherapy, which decreases the time frame for allergy shots from about six months to six weeks, usually results in faster symptom relief and fewer weekly visits to your allergist for injections.
There’s no cure, but you can get relief from seasonal allergies. In an allergy-prone area like North Texas, it pays to take precautions and seek medical help for long-term relief.
And that’s nothing to sneeze at.