Houston gripped by “cedar fever”

The high content of cedar pollen can cause allergies in Houstonians.

HOUSTON. It’s called “cedar fever” and it made its way to Houston in early 2023. cedar pollen levels were high on Wednesday and can cause nasty allergies in Houstonians.

The following information was obtained from the Texas A&M Forest Service website.

What it is?

Cedar fever is a unique pollen season originating from the Ashe juniper tree, which is classified as a cedar. It pollinates in winter, and the United States and Japan are the only two places in the world that have this strong winter pollen.

Pollen bursts are caused by cold fronts – the air dries up, a strong wind blows, atmospheric pressure drops. This allows warm and rarefied air to rise up and carry the pollen further.

Carl Flock is a forest ecologist with the Texas A&M Forest Service. Cedar pollen isn’t particularly allergenic or harmful, he says, but it’s so concentrated that even if you’re not allergic, it can still affect you.

“There are millions of junipers that are releasing pollen at the same time,” Flock said. “You can’t help but inhale it, and when you do, your body reacts the same way it would to any perceived threat – it tries to fight it.”

Where is it from?

The genesis of cedar fever is usually found in Central Texas.

“Cedar fever is worst west of I-35, which is mostly juniper mixed with oaks and some other species,” said Jonathan Motsinger, head of the Texas Forest Service’s Central Operations Division. “And since all of these junipers are producing pollen at the same time, you’ll get a higher concentration of pollen in the air.”

The source is not limited to the Ashe juniper, although there are also eastern red cedars in the eastern parts of the state, which pollinate around the same time and can cause a similar allergic reaction.

How often does this happen?

Cedar fever usually occurs during the winter months.

Cedar trees usually start producing pollen in mid-December, and this is often triggered by colder weather or the passage of a cold front. Pollen production peaks in mid-January and then gradually declines by early March, just in time for oak pollen and other spring allergens to kick in.

What are the symptoms?

Cedarwood fever is not the flu or a virus, but an allergic reaction to the pollen given off by cedar trees, although people often mistake cedarwood fever for a cold or seasonal flu.

Some symptoms include fatigue, sore throat, runny nose, partial loss of smell, and mild fever. If your temperature is above 101.5°F, pollen is most likely not the cause.

Some symptoms of cedar fever are not related to COVID or the flu: itching, watery eyes, nasal congestion, and sneezing. One symptom, according to Flock, should tell you what you’re dealing with.

“Usually, allergy mucus is clear and runny, while other infections result in thicker mucus color,” Flock said.

What are you doing about it?

Doctors said that cedar fever affects everyone differently. Depending on your health, sensitivity to cedar pollen can take anywhere from one to 10 years to develop.

You can treat cedar fever by taking allergy medications and antihistamines, but you should check with your doctor or healthcare professional before taking new medications.

You can also keep windows and doors closed and limit the time you spend outdoors. Change air conditioner filters in your car and at home to limit exposure. Also wash your pillowcases and sheets more often.

Don’t forget about your pets. When you take your dog out for a walk, be sure to dry it off before returning to the house.

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