What Will Cedar Season Be Like in the Hill Country This Year?

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‘Tis the season for mountain cedar pollen in the air wreaking havoc on the residents and visitors to the Texas Hill Country. The effects of cedar fever vary from person to person: itchy eyes, stuffy noses, headache, and fatigue are all common complaints this time of the year. For some Central Texas residents, symptoms don’t occur until after living here for several years–so if you think you’ve escaped the wrath of cedar season this year, you might not be out of the woods (so to speak) just yet.

What Kind of Cedar Season Can We Expect for This Year?

mountain cedar

Photo: Unsplash/Lukasz Szmigiel

Cedar fever typically peaks in late December or early January and can stick around in the air as late as March. Austin media sources reported that last year, on December 29, cedar pollen levels exceeded several thousand grains per cubic meter. Dry and windy weather will increase pollen levels, whereas wet weather will decrease levels. Even though moisture can bring down cedar levels, an ice storm can kill cedar season altogether. The ice forms along the bulbs of the cedar tree and weighs them down. With La Nina present this winter, this could lead to a worse than normal cedar season.

Ashe Junipers Are the Culprit

Ashe Juniper

Photo: Flickr/Mary PK Burns

Some types of cedar trees produce especially prolific amounts of allergenic pollen; Japanese cedar, mountain cedar, and Eastern and Western red cedars actually belong to the juniper and cypress families but are commonly classed as cedars in the United States. Although most cedars pollinate and cause allergy symptoms in the spring, the mountain cedar of the south-central U.S. states reproduces in the winter and may cause severe allergic rhinitis (stuffy nose). Ashe junipers (commonly called mountain cedar) are the only trees pollinating this time of year. They produce tremendous amounts of pollen that trigger sneezing, stuffy nose, runny nose and itching eyes among allergy sufferers.

Avoidance Is the Best Course of Action

Cedar Season

Photo: Flickr/Gerolf Nikolay

In addition to taking antihistamines and other medications that control the symptoms of allergic reactions, experts recommend that avoiding mountain cedar pollen is the best course of action.  While it’s nearly impossible to avoid mountain cedar pollen altogether, you can cut down on exposure by keeping your house and car windows closed and wearing a mask while doing yard work. Also, don’t hang laundry to dry outside while HEPA filters can help indoors. And, as is always the case, wash your hands to prevent transferring pollen to your eyes and nose.