It's that time of the year again: the dreaded first three weeks of January when cedar pollen production peaks in Central Texas. People allergic to cedar are suffering particularly hard today because of pollen counts above 2000 grains per liter of air. Counts over 1,500 are considered "very high".
KUT News called Dr. Robert Cook, an allergist with Central Texas Allergy and Asthma Center. He said it appears as if much of the pollen has yet to be released into the air.
"The male cedar trees have little pollen cones. The more pollen cones they have, the more orange and brown the trees become, and they're still looking pretty green right now," he said. "We're really just beginning the cedar season, and just beginning to see the pollen blow in from the Hill Country."
Dr. Cook admitted the 2,000 pollen count is high, but he's seen counts in Central Texas as high as 64,000 pollen grains per liter of air. (We had previously reported the highest he had seen was 6,400, but Dr. Cook called us back to clarify it was 64,000.)
To limit the suffering from cedar fever, Dr. Cook recommends closing your windows and showering at night to keep pollen out of your bed.
Dr. Cook says antihistamine medications like Zyrtec can be very effective. He says prescription medications that work well include topical nasal steroids. They don't take effect for about two weeks after you start begin administering, but they are effective with about 90 percent of patients.
Other options include stronger antihistamines like generic Allegra, he said. New topical nasal spray antihistamines including Patanase, Astelin, and Aste-pro can help people.
When patients don't respond to those medications, Dr. Cook says they often recommend allergy shots, which he says are 85 percent effective in preventing cedar fever. A course of allergy shots is typically three to five years, but they start working within six months after you take the top dose. That won't help you with cedar this year, but it could help you in 2012.
Check out this video to see the remarkable and frightening plumes of cedar pollen that come off trees in Central Texas. Then head over to PeopleAgainstCedars.com for more information on how to cope.