The term “Cedar Fever” inspires dread and fascination all over Texas and surrounding areas. Yet Cedar Fever is neither a fever nor does it arise from a cedar tree. Below you will find the facts on Cedar Fever symptoms, how bad it looks this season and the steps you can take to defend yourself.
What is Cedar Fever in Austin?
Cedar Fever is an allergic reaction to pollen released by Juniperus ashei, a juniper tree also known as mountain cedar. While it grows extensively around Austin, the mountain cedar is found all over Texas and parts of Oklahoma, Missouri, Arkansas and Northern Mexico.
Unlike other trees that pollinate in the spring, the male mountain cedar tree releases pollen into the air during the cold winter months. The pollen finds its way to female trees to fertilize their seeds so the plant is ready to reproduce during the sunny spring and summer months. If you breathe in pollen grains, your body may have an immune response if you are allergic to pollen.
Each pollen grain is covered with complex proteins and other unique chemicals, which are recognized by the body’s immune system as foreign invaders if you have a pollen allergy.
What are the symptoms of Cedar Fever?
When pollen grains land on the mucous membranes of the eyes, nose or throat, nearby immune cells may consider the pollen a threat if you have allergies. These cells may then launch a host of immune responses to prevent the invader from entering the body. These immune responses do not just harm the invader, they can also affect you. What happens next is part of an allergic reaction to the pollen.
Allergic symptoms to mountain cedar pollen may include:
- Runny nose
- Nasal congestion
- Itchy mucous membranes
- Watery, red eyes
- Swelling around the eye
These immune responses may occur even if the pollen grain has broken apart into tiny pieces before reaching your nose, since your immune cells react to the single molecules on the pollen surface. Even if your body does not initially react to the pollen, it is possible to later develop an allergy, and you may start to notice the symptoms of Cedar Fever during the winter months. The Austin American-Statesman newspaper reports that you can develop a pollen allergy after 1 to 6 years of living in Austin, according to experts. One study found that mountain cedar pollen may be unique in causing respiratory allergies for those without other sensitivities (Ramirez, 2000)
How can you be exposed to cedar pollen?
Most people are exposed to floating particles of pollen by merely going outdoors in regions where mountain cedar trees grow, because the pollen can travel hundreds of miles and can effectively cover entire cities. However, there is more pollen where the trees grow along hiking trails and areas bordering the wilderness. Pollen bits sticks to clothing and the body to ride into buildings, cars, and any other interior space like your home.
When is this year’s Cedar Fever season and how long does it last?
Cedar Fever season starts in Texas and the regions nearby around the middle of December and typically lasts through February.
This year is expected to bring particularly intense Cedar Fever symptoms. As you might expect, cedar trees grow better when it rains, and 2018 saw higher than average rainfall for Texas and the surrounding area. As the weather cools, cedar trees will know to open their cones to let their pollen be taken up by the wind. If you already know you are sensitive to cedar pollen, take extra steps to avoid pollen if the day is extra cold, because the trees may be releasing more than usual.
What are some tips for dealing with Cedar Fever?
There are several steps you can take to defend against Cedar Fever, including many preventive steps that can lower your exposure to pollen, both outdoors and indoors.
If you are interested in taking allergy medication (either by prescription or over-the-counter) for your allergy symptoms, it is best to ask your physician’s advice. Some people are interested in herbal remedies, such as “Cedar Fever drops” that are advertised on Amazon. You may want to receive further medical advice about natural remedies if you are interested, as these drops are not approved by the FDA.
If you see clouds of pollen in the air around Austin, your allergies could also be affected by the pollen that finds its way indoors. Here are some tips that could make a big difference:
- Keep windows closed during Cedar Fever season to prevent pollen from blowing inside. If the AC or heater is running, make sure to change filters to prevent any pollen from being released back into your home.
- Get rid of as much dust as you can by regularly wiping surfaces, as well as vacuuming to remove any pollen particles on carpets and floors. This is especially important because while removing dust, you also remove tiny pollen particles that otherwise could resuspend in the air.
- Prevent pollen from coming indoors by changing outfits or washing clothing after returning home, as tiny pollen grains can be carried inside via your clothing. They may also linger on your pets; consider wiping or brushing your furry friends before they enter the house.
- Reduce amounts of pollen found in your room: Wash bed linen frequently to remove any embedded pollen particles that have come from your skin or hair. It is also recommended to wash your hair before you sleep.
- Check the tree pollen count at the Houston Health Department website (http://www.houstontx.gov/health/Pollen-Mold/) to plan your day accordingly, if possible. Wearing a dust mask outdoors, especially if there are mountain cedar trees in the vicinity, could also help.
- Run an air purifier to help remove any pollen particles in the air. Most air purifiers with only HEPA filters simply trap pollen grains of a certain size on a fiber filter. The Molekule air purifier, as described below, is different because the technology can destroy airborne pollutants, not just collect them.
The Molekule air purifier
As you take the above steps to keep pollen out of your home, an air purifier can help with the pollen that is already inside your home.
The pollen from mountain cedar or any other plant is no match for the Molekule PECO technology. Unlike traditional air purifiers that attempt to capture pollutants, Molekule can destroy pollen and other allergens using a catalytic reaction on the surface of the PECO filter.
The average size of allergy-producing pollen is 25 micrometers, though some could be as small as 2.5 micrometers (1 micrometer = 0.000039 inches) or as large as 200 micrometers. The Molekule air purifier has a dual-phase filtration system. Larger particles are first trapped by a Pre-Filter before the air flows into the PECO-Filter, which is coated with our proprietary catalyst that can break down tiny pollen particles at a molecular level when activated by light. Allergy-producing particles can be very tiny and suspend in the air, and the Molekule PECO technology can destroy them.
The Molekule air purifier can help make a difference for the air you breathe during Cedar Fever season in Austin, as well as year round.