Anyone who has lived in Austin for more than one winter knows the signs of cedar fever: the itchy eyes, the nasal congestion, the sneezing and the runny noses. The cause of this annual scourge is the all-too-common Mountain Cedar tree with its orangey brown pollen that coats everything outside and is sometimes so thick that it is mistaken for smoke.
The Mountain Cedar tree is actually part of the juniper family, which is why it’s referred to as Ashe juniper or Juniperus ashei. Some theorize that extensive grazing of cattle led to the decline of the Hill Country’s grassland and the proliferation of woody shrubs like mountain cedar trees. Cattle and sheep would eat all the grass in an area but leave behind the juniper shrubs that grew into trees.
Cedar fever reaches its height in December, January and February. The highest pollen counts come on days that are sunny and windy; and they can spike rapidly. Just last year, a cedar count of 21,400 particles per cubic meter of air recorded on January 15, 2014, was said to be the second-highest of all time.
What can we do? The first steps are obvious: Stay indoors on days when reported pollen counts are high. Keep windows closed, living areas dusted, carpets vacuumed and pets bathed. Shower off and change clothes after being outside. Consider nasal irrigation with a squeeze bottle or neti pot.
Medications can also offer relief. Some people depend on over-the-counter antihistamine pills while others seek out prescription eye drops. Prescription nasal sprays can help too, though they need to be started a couple of weeks before the season begins for maximum benefit.
Rather than reducing symptoms after they have started, allergen immunotherapy helps the body develop resistance to the pollen particles so that symptoms are significantly reduced and much less severe. And while allergy shots are the most widely used immunotherapy treatment in the United States, finding time for weekly allergy injections can be difficult. Allergy drops however, offer “a safe and effective alternative to weekly injections.”
Dr. Hallett has been offering his patients the high-dose European protocol allergy drops since 2009. An individualized extract prescription is prepared for each patient based on the results of allergy testing. Patients then take a daily dose of their drops and advance through build up dilutions to reach their maintenance dose in just one month. That makes now a great time to consider allergy drops as a way to stave off this winter’s cedar fever.