Some trees in Central Texas are starting to release pollen this season, meaning people may be starting to feel the effects of the infamous cedar fever.
This phenomenon occurs when Ashe juniper trees begin releasing pollen into the air, causing people with pollen allergies to develop flu-like symptoms such as nasal congestion, sneezing, and watery eyes.
“Ash juniper is interesting because it has male trees and female trees,” said Jonathan Motsinger, Central Texas Operations Manager at Texas A&M Forest Service. “Male trees will produce these pollen cones that will release pollen, and then female trees will have flowers that are a little sticky.”
Like many plants, Ashe juniper has a pollination season. This year, this season just begins with the beginning of the year. However, the season usually starts in December.
“Things seem to have been delayed a bit this year when we really didn’t see a lot of measurable pollen until the very end of December,” Motsinger said.
This could be because the area experienced warmer weather in early December, and usually a cold front that occurs at the end of the month affects the release of pollen, he said.
The delay means the season may shift slightly. So instead of pollen levels peaking in mid-January, they are more likely to peak towards the end of the month. Instead of allergy season ending in February, Motzinger said it would likely end in early March.
And this is not the only allergy season in the first half of the year.
“Different trees do it at different times of the year,” he said. “Many times we will be allergic again in the second round in March and April when oak and pecan [trees] release pollen.
Motzinger has some tips on how to prevent allergies from ruining your life over the next few months.
Having allergy medications and antihistamines on hand or at home is number one. He also suggests limiting time spent outdoors, especially in the morning, as that is when pollen is usually most abundant in the air.
Also, changing the air filter in your air conditioner or HVAC system can be helpful. Vacuuming your home regularly can also help, and try to keep windows and doors closed for as long as possible.
However, if it gets really bad, you can always disguise yourself.
“Just wearing a face mask or something like that, N95 or something like that, which I think we are all very familiar with, can help filter the air and remove these particles, remove these allergens, pollen from the air, so that we hardly breathe,” Motsinger said.
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