Not that it deserves accuracy or any sort of reverence, but here are a few things you may not know about this plague of pollen, all ready for you to dish out at cocktails parties through stuffed noses and itchy eyes. Get to know thy enemy, and you may just make it out of cedar season alive.
And no, you will not look this cute.
10. Cedar fever isn’t brought on by cedar trees
The source is actually the Ashe juniper tree (Juniperus ashei). The confusion probably comes from it often being called a Mountain Cedar tree. Unfortunately, this isn’t the sort of juniper that can be converted into the magical elixir that is gin, making it even more disappointing.
9. “Cedar” isn’t the only misnomer in this descriptor
There’s no actual fever involved with the allergic reaction to the Ashe juniper. Basically, this is the most inaccurately named affliction, ever. Never fear, though, there are plenty of other cedar fever symptoms to keep you reveling in your misery. According to Hill Country Allergy & Asthma, symptoms can include “an itchy, runny nose, sneezing, nasal blockage, excess tearing and itchy eyes, also known as hay fever (allergic rhinitis). Others complain of itching of the mouth, throat, or ears, and post–nasal drainage. Others experience fatigue, mild headache, facial discomfort, sore throat, partial loss of sense of smell, and sensation of ear plugging. If these symptoms persist they can eventually lead to infections of the sinuses, and can even make eczema and/or asthma worsen.” Hooray!
Yep, this is exactly what it feels like.
8. The trees are basically having sex in your face
Since all this pollen business is really about reproduction, let’s talk about that for a second…The plants are a dioecious species, meaning their male and female reproductive structures are on separate plants. And, you guessed it, that’s the males business flying all around in the wind, looking for seeds to pollinate. Think about that the next time your nose is all full of the yellow stuff.
…in your nostrils.
7. Austin has way too many of these things
Central Texas has the unique distinction of having the highest concentration of the tree in the country-its range spreads from southern Missouri to northeastern Mexico. We’re just really, really lucky.
Seriously. Soooo lucky.
6. There is an upside to your misery
Even though it makes us terribly miserable, the Ashe juniper provides a lot of benefits to Central Texas, including erosion control, wildlife habitat, and it makes great raw materials for fence posts because it’s rot resistant. Not that we don’t all just love fence posts, but more compellingly, that adorable, endangered Golden Cheeked Warbler seems to have an irrational attachment to juniper and oak trees, however, making them critical to the survival of this species.
Allergy sufferers don’t want him to win.
Hit ‘next’ to see the rest.
5. It has been here for a long, long time
The Ashe juniper has been in Texas since at least the Pleistocene epoch, which means they could have been providing scratching posts and shade to animals such as camels, mammoths, mastodons, saber teeth, giant ground sloths, and dire wolves. The jury is still out on whether or not dragons were there.
Winter is coming. Stay inside.
4. It gets the worst during winter
Allergists say that the peak time for cedar fever in Central Texas is mid-December through February, with peak time in the first few weeks of January while the tree is pollinating; so much for a merry Christmas and a happy new year. If you haven’t already been suffering, don’t worry, you will be.
Mmmm. Sneeze carrots.
3. That whole eat local honey to cure you thing? It’s a myth
As much as we’d love a natural remedy to help ease our cedar fever woes (and one that supports local farmers, at that), honey just isn’t going to help. According to Web MD, “It’s generally the pollen blowing in the wind (released by non-flowering trees, weeds, and grasses) that triggers springtime allergies, not the pollen in flowers carried by bees. So even local honey won’t have much, if any, of the type of pollen setting off your allergies.” Massage, acupuncture, and antioxidant-rich juices are a better choice if you’re looking for natural relief.
Sorry, guys, Pooh doesn’t have all the answers this time.
2. Sometimes it’s so bad that people confuse the pollen for smoke
Pollen clouds from the Ashe juniper became so intense in mid-January of 2014 (a year with record pollen count numbers at 16,675 grains per cubic meter, a 16 year high) that residents near the Greenbelt called the fire department to report smoke.
1. Our air quality is still way better than Dallas and Houston
Though Austin tends to make the top of just about every list that’s generated, causing us to repost it on Facebook while grumbling about not moving here, there’s one list that Austin ranked surprisingly low on: In early 2015, the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America compiled a list of the 100 worst cities for spring allergies, and only managed to come out 64th. So while our suffering makes us feel like we should be at #1, this is one of the few times we can be ok with Houston (#10) and Dallas (#7) topping us on a list.
Enjoy the outdoors and our fair city while you still can!