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Central Texas cedar trees: An irritant to allergy sufferers and a benefit to the environment

Posted at 9:18 PM, Jan 06, 2021
and last updated 2021-01-06 22:20:50-05

VALLEY MILLS, TX  — It's nothing Texans aren't familiar with, but it's occurring during a peculiar time - mountain cedar season.

25 News recently helped illustrate how you can tell the difference between symptoms associated with COVID-19 and allergic reactions caused by mountain cedar.

For Dr. Kellous Price with Texas ENT & Allergy, the first months of a new year are a busy time for seeing patients experiencing allergic symptoms related to mountain cedar.

"You know, it's nothing new, and you know in general, it's going to be... it's going to be bothering people usually from about November to up to March," Dr. Price said. "But it's usually worse from about December to February."

However, amid the COVID-19 pandemic, allergy season comes at a peculiar time, and he's seen fewer people come in with allergy symptoms in 2021 than in previous years.

"A lot of people are indoors for other reasons," Dr. Price said. "It's an outdoor pollen. You're still going to get it in on the indoor, but if people have air conditioning and don't have their windows open, they're not going to have as many problems."

According to Dr. Price, avoidance is the key to any kind of pollen, which seems to be what more people are doing this year.

"If you can't avoid it then, you know, we medicate people," he said. "There's lots of good medications, over-the-counter, including the antihistamines. There are several different ones, nasal steroids, usually we try to get people in those a little bit earlier because they take a little while to kick in. "

Most allergy sufferers are familiar with the symptoms associated with "cedar fever," but they should still be cautious if any symptoms develop they believe are out of the ordinary.

"I think that it at least just for this year and this time, if you think it's something that's... that's out of the ordinary, especially if your allergy sufferer and you're used to having your normal allergy symptoms," Dr. Price explained. "You need to consider that it's... it could be potentially COVID and get tested."

If you live in Texas, it's not hard to find someone who suffers from those symptoms during this time of year. Aubrey Stringer owns Valley Mills Mantels, where what some deem a nuisance is turned into fine quality mantels.

"My girlfriend has cedar allergies. In fact, I know a lot of people," Stringer explained. "But then on the other hand, people come in here and say cedar smells so good."

According to the Texas A&M Forest Service, the sheer quantity and density of Ashe junipers in Central Texas is a primary factor contributing to cedar fever.

In a press release, Jonathan Mostinger, the Central Texas Operations Department Head for Texas A&M Forest Service, explained, "Cedar fever is the worst west of I-35, where you have primarily juniper mixed in with oaks and some other species, and because all of those junipers are producing pollen at the same time, you're going to get a higher concentration of pollen in the air."

Texans west of I-35 are undoubtedly familiar with the negative impact junipers can have on those with allergies, which begs the question, why not remove some of these trees?

"Where they come up, you can't get rid of them," Stringer said, chuckling. "Many people have tried, and few have succeeded."

"Well, Cedar Trees, Ashe junipers are one of the most common trees here," said Brian Williams.

Williams is an ISA certified arborist and owner of Brian's Tree Services in Central Texas.

"They are known for a lot of allergies about two months out of the year," he explained. "But what a lot of people don't understand is cedar trees are important to our area and that they do help."

Williams says he's seen where new property owners have sought to remove cedar trees from their property without understanding the benefits they provide.

"They help with your erosion control," he said. "They help with temperature control of the soil around the root systems of the other trees, and they add organic matter to the soil around those other trees."

Williams says the mass removal of these trees could expose root systems to Oak Wilt, a destructive tree disease that kills oak trees at epidemic proportions.

He says those concerned about cedar trees on their property should approach the problem from a management perspective rather than a perspective on elimination.

"You really need to focus on tree management, of property management more than total eradication of one species of tree on the property," said Williams.

Some steps you can take to keep cedar symptoms at bay include:

  • Check pollen levels before going outdoors
  • Clean home regularly to minimize dust
  • Take a shower and change clothes
  • Bathe pets often

For more information on Cedar Fever and how to identify Ashe junipers in Texas you can visit the Texas A&M Forest Service here.