Do you rub your eyes and clear your throat more often than usual? Blame the trees.
Ashe juniper trees, also known as mountain cedars, are the culprit in an allergic condition called cedar fever, according to the Texas A&M Forest Service. Around mid-December, juniper trees begin to pollinate seasonally, and this is usually triggered by cold weather.
After the Arctic blast sent temperatures plummeting in Dallas and Fort Worth ahead of the holidays, cedar pollen production kicked in — and could skyrocket in 2023, said Jonathan Motsinger, head of operations for the Forest Service’s Central Texas Division.
Trees that cause cedar fever, predominantly the Ashe juniper in Texas, begin producing pollen in mid-December, often triggered by colder weather or the passage of a cold front. Pollen production peaks in mid-January and then declines in March. https://t.co/nS8GDDy6Sb pic.twitter.com/dJysA8I6Mb
— Texas A&M Forest Service (@TXForestService) December 15, 2022
“There is a possibility that it could be more significant and run a little later than usual, so we might see it stretch into February or maybe into early March,” Motsinger said.
Here’s what causes cedar fever and what you can do to prevent allergies:
What causes cedar fever?
Cedar fever is an allergic reaction to pollen from the male juniper Ashe.
According to the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center plant database, Ashe junipers are distinguished by their large spreading branches and shaggy bark. The female trees often produce blue berry-like cones, while the male trees are responsible for the release of pollen.
Although it is most common in Central Texas, local foresters say juniper trees grow in areas of North Texas. Pollen is also carried by the wind, which can spread allergens to people who don’t live near trees.
“Sometimes you can be allergic and there are no juniper trees nearby, but that pollen is carried to other areas,” Motsinger said.
While hard to predict, the cedar fever season is likely to be more severe than usual due to below-average rainfall forecast for 2023, he said.
“Allergies can be more severe because occasional occasional rains help clear the air a bit,” Motsinger said. “It picks up pollen in the air or on trees, branches, or other things.”
He added that a prolonged cedar fever season could also exacerbate spring allergies, leading to more pollen in the air and a shorter recovery time.
“We go straight from cedar fever to oak pollen allergy, so there may not be much respite between the two,” Motsinger said.
Allergy Prevention Tips
Even if you don’t have allergies, highly concentrated patches of juniper trees can affect you.
To control your sniffling and sneezing, according to the Forest Service, there are several ways to fight cedar fever.
- Take an over-the-counter antihistamine.
- Control the amount of pollen in your area.
- Keep windows and doors closed.
- Limit your time outdoors. Try scheduling outdoor activities in the afternoon when pollen counts are usually lower.
- Change the air filters in your car and at home.
- Dust and vacuum regularly.
- Consider wearing a face mask.