Cedar pollen count in Austin reaches 'explosive' levels

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by QUITA CULPEPPER / KVUE News and TINA SHIVELY / KVUE News

kvue.com

Posted on January 2, 2014 at 2:30 PM

Updated Friday, Jan 3 at 12:14 PM

AUSTIN -- KVUE meteorologists say the cedar pollen count in Austin on Thursday was 7,337 grains per cubic meter. It's one of the highest cedar counts ever seen since the weather department began keeping track of the daily pollen levels in 1997.

Experts say 90 percent of all allergy sufferers in Austin are allergic to cedar.

The source of the problem is the tiny brown cones seen on male trees. The cones will explode and the tree looks like it's on fire. So much white pollen gets released into the air it resembles smoke.

KVUE meteorologist Albert Ramon says thanks to a wet fall, cedar trees flourished in Central Texas.

The weather conditions have to be just right for pollen to be released. Those include cool, dry air or a cold front. It sets off pollination from Waco to San Antonio, up and down the Interstate 35 corridor. Sufferers will get itchy watery eyes, runny noses, coughing, congestion and overall lethargy. There is good news for sufferers, though. Allergists say there are some medications that can help.

"The general treatment for allergies is to avoid the pollen which is impossible. So many people take antihistamine pills, and on top of that they can take antihistamine eye drops. [And they can take] cortisone nasal sprays which are prescription decongestants, like Sudafed, if symptoms get very very severe. Some people need to take steroids in the form of shots or pills," allergist Dr. William Howland said.

Dr. Howland says allergy shots can also help cut way back on allergies. If you're a cedar sufferer the best time to get those is in the late spring.

Julia Strickler is a naturopathic doctor at People's Pharmacy.

"When you think about the side effects of the over-the-counter medications, the sleepiness, the grogginess...there are lots of other really good things that are more natural that you can use," Strickler said.

Strickler suggests trying specially-formulated herbal drops, pellets or sprays. There are even essential oils that may help relieve cedar fever symptoms.  A neti pot is a natural option as well.

"It's great if we can minimize the side effects and boost your overall health and get you feeling up and ready to work and interact with the world in this new year," Strickler said.

When it comes to the time of year for the first big cedar explosion of the season, we are right on point, maybe a few days late. Trees usually pollinate sometime between Christmas and New Year's Day. These little cones will likely cause problems for allergy sufferers for the next 48 hours. The levels will then fade away and spike up again to high levels in a few days through mid-February.

Stay ahead of the pollen with KVUE's Allergy Forecast.

You can also see the allergy forecast in our free mobile app, Austin Allergy.

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