Pollen count surges in North Texas

Posted Monday, Feb. 18, 2013  comments  Print Reprints

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Runny noses, itchy eyes and non-stop sneezing were rampant in North Texas on Monday, courtesy of mountain cedar.

The pollen count in North Texas was 1,782 on Monday, one of the highest counts in the nation.

"It does seem we're in a pattern of more extreme pollen counts, just like we've had in recent years with record high temperatures," said Fort Worth allergist James Haden. "Last year's (mountain cedar season) was intense but short, but we didn't set any daily pollen records like we have this year."

Mountain cedar, dubbed the Christmas allergy since it usually kicks in around the holiday, blows up from the Hill Country when there are strong winds coming in from the south.

But it isn't just mountain cedar that's literally giving allergy sufferers fits right now.

Grass pollen, normally seen in the spring and fall, along with an active flu season have created "quite a bit of respiratory misery this winter even though it has not been very cold," Haden said.

Fort Worth allergist Bob Lanier said mountain cedar, which is produced by Juniper trees, isn't native to Texas. Cattle drives northward from Mexico helped spread the seeds all the way from Laredo to Fort Worth.

"It was kind of the Johnny Appleseed effect," Lanier said.

If you are susceptible to mountain cedar, there are a variety of options for treatment.

Fort Worth allergist Normand Tremblay said first-time sufferers should start with over-the-counter medications like Allegra, Zyrtec and NasalCrom before seeking out prescription medications. If that doesn't work, then sufferers should seek help from their primary care doctor or an allergist.

Tremblay noted one of the challenges in treating allergies is that everyone reacts differently -- so there's no foolproof treatment.

"We can't predict what will work," Tremblay said. "Some day we may be able to predict but not yet."

Other tips to protect against mountain cedar include wearing wraparound sunglasses to protect eyes while outdoors and even changing clothes or showering after being outdoors.

"Wash your hair," Lanier said. "Don't go to bed with it."

The good news is mountain cedar usually ends some time in March, just in time for trees to start pollinating for spring.

Bill Hanna, (817) 390-7698

Twitter: @fwhanna

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