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Dawson Neighborhood

Central Texas Allergies

Daily KEYE Allergy Report (click for full size) Daily KVUE Allergy Report (click for full size)

Following an otherwise pretty nice day, this Monday evening, the symptoms have suddenly begun. Swollen sinuses, sore throat, dripping nose, burning eyes, blurry vision, body aches, ear aches, lack of concentration. It’s not a flu or cold. This is officially Cedar Fever Season, the burning scourge of the Ashe Juniper aka “Mountain Cedar”. Right on time, as always: mid-December. It will dominate my life for the next 4 months.

Folks who are susceptible to this allergy, and who are new to Central Texas will often notice no problems the first 2 or 3 years. The juniper pollen is priming your system. My first cedar episode was so bad, I lost a good job and nearly had a nervous breakdown. The previous winter, I’d been working in the hill country, operating a wood chipper, watching the pollen bursting from branches at random intervals. It looks precisely like a smouldering branch just before it catches alight with flame.

If you get Cedar Fever, you have my sympathies. Now, take a day off work and go to the allergist. NOW. Over-the-counter meds will not help you, though double-doses of generic Claritin are cheap now. You need a doctor’s prescription for something strong.. If you are young and mobile, I kid you not, consider moving away. Finish college elsewhere. There are plenty of parts of the world where the very air is not trying to kill you from the inside. I honestly don’t know how the settlers coped. For some, it must have been horrible.

allergy-cedarHERE‘s an introduction (.pdf) to Austin’s typical allergy seasons. Austin’s continuous buffet of allergies will keep you wild with inflammation all year long. When one pollen is tapering off, another is starting up to replace it.

HERE‘s a graphical chart of last year’s pollen levels. My symptoms began before they started showing “cedar” counts on local allergy reports. Those flat-looking “mold” levels are actually moderately high. The cedar levels are in the stratosphere.

For daily pollen counts, check these three sources daily : KVUE, KEYE and Allergists of Austin.

Austin-born locals don’t get Cedar Fever as often. They may have benefited from childhood exposure, or they may just be descended from folks who were immune. I can’t imagine any settlers who suffered from this remained in the area, or survived if they did. Folk remedies include eating locally collected honey, drinking juniper tea (it’s VERY delicious with a bit of honey), and swallowing a juniper berry each day. I dunno; these things just give me fresh attacks. Modern research finds that allergies are tied to allergens moving through the intestines, rather than the sinuses or lungs. Desensitization through controlled exposure to minute quantities of allergens has worked for many. This could be why gallons of coffee help me, as well as the decongestant effect of caffeine. Spicy food, too.

All good survival guides tell you to minimize outdoor exposure, especially between dusk and dawn. Wind direction plays a big part in your area’s exposure from day to day. Attacks may reoccur weeks or months after the pollen counts officially end, while the pockets of collected pollen eventually disburse and degrade. Change your clothes each time you come indoors, and take a steamy shower. HEPA and ionizing air filters may help. I sleep under a plastic tent that is inflated by a good HEPA filter fan.

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