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Allergies acting up? Cedar fever is back in Austin

A close up of green leaves on an Ashe juniper tree.
Gabriel C. Pérez
Pollen from Ashe juniper trees trigger "cedar fever."

Some Central Texas trees are starting to release their pollen for this season, which means folks may start feeling the effects of the infamous cedar fever.

This phenomenon occurs when Ashe juniper trees begin releasing pollen into the air, causing people with pollen allergies to start having flu-like symptoms, like a stuffy nose, sneezing and watery eyes.

"Ashe junipers are interesting in that they have male trees and female trees," said Jonathan Motsinger, the head of Central Texas operations at Texas A&M Forest Service. "The male trees will produce these pollen cones, which are what will release the pollen and then the female trees have flowers that are a little bit sticky."

Like many plants, Ashe juniper trees have a season during which they pollinate. This year, that season just happens to begin with the start of the year. Usually, though, the season starts in December.

"Seems like everything has been delayed a little bit this year where we weren't really seeing much measurable pollen until right at the end of December," Motsinger said.

That may be because the area had warmer weather in early December, and typically a cold front, which happened later in the month, is what effects the release of pollen, he said.

The delay means the season might shift a bit. So, instead of the pollen rates peaking in mid-January, they'll likely peak toward the end of the month. And instead of the allergy season ending in February, it'll likely end in early March, according to Motsinger.

And this isn't the only allergy season that happens during the first half of the year.

"Different trees do it at different times of year," he said. "A lot of times we will suffer allergies again the second round come March and April, whenever oak and pecan [trees] are releasing pollen."

Motsinger has a few recommendations on how to keep allergies from ruining your life over the next few months.

Having allergy medicine and antihistamines on hand or at home is number one. He also suggests limiting your time outdoors, particularly in the mornings since that's when pollen is usually most prevalent in the air.

Also, replacing the air filter in your air conditioner or HVAC system can be helpful. Regularly dusting and vacuuming your home and trying to keep the windows and doors closed as much as possible can help, too.

If it gets really bad, though, you can always mask up.

"Simply wearing a face mask or something, an N95 or something like that, which I think we're all pretty familiar with now, can help filter the air in and remove those particles, remove those allergens, the pollen, from the air so that we're not breathing in nearly as much of it," Motsinger said.

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Haya Panjwani is a general assignment reporter, with a focus on Travis County. Got a tip? Email her at Follow her on Twitter @hayapanjw.
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