By Russell J Otto, MD, FACS – North Texas ENT & Allergy Center
Late fall and winter is a time when most allergy sufferers around the country can expect some relief from their symptoms. Not so in much of Texas. That time of year is notorious for continuation or worsening of symptoms due to mountain cedar.
The culprit is an evergreen tree in the cypress-juniper family. It grows naturally in Central Texas and particularly in the Texas Hill Country, but also in pockets found in surrounding states. It typically pollinates November through March with the peak pollen concentration in the air occurring from December to February. The pollen can be carried for miles by the winds. In fact, during pollination season in the Texas Hill Country, one can look over the tree-covered hills and observe the yellow haze that represents the spread of the pollen. It looks much like the drifting smoke of many campfires wafting through the trees and air.
For those sensitive to the effect of mountain cedar pollen, the late fall and winter time can spell trouble. Pollen can induce eye irritation, burning itching, and tearing. It affects the nose with sneezing, itching, and watery drainage. The lungs can produce mucus and become congested leading to cough, wheezing, and shortness of breath. Even worse, the allergic process can spread, giving one decreased energy, difficulty with concentration, and a generalized ill feeling.
In order to avoid these consequences, allergy sufferers should stay indoors as much as possible during pollination season, keep the windows shut at home, and run the air conditioner. Also, remember to change the filters as recommended.
When mountain cedar fever hits, medicines will likely be needed to help the sufferer cope with the symptoms. Antihistamines are useful to help battle the itching, sneezing, and watery symptoms. Steroids may be needed too, especially if symptoms become severe. To get at the source of the problem and treat it there, immunotherapy can be prescribed. Immunotherapy, whether via subcutaneous injection or sublingual (under the tongue) drops, is highly effective at curbing symptoms now and preventing symptoms in the future.