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From December through February, many people experience an itchy, runny nose, sneezing, nasal blockage, excess tearing and itchy eyes. Others complain of itching of the palate, throat, or ears, and post-nasal drainage. Some have fatigue, mild headache, facial discomfort, sore throat, partial loss of sense of smell, and sensation of ear plugging. If you experience the above symptoms every year during these months, the chance is great that you have Mountain Cedar allergy. Allergy sufferers often describe an obvious seasonal pattern of the onset of symptoms over the years. This condition is mostly caused by pollens. Throughout the northern hemisphere, tree pollens appear from March through May; in central Texas, these are mostly pollens of: Ash, Oak, Willow, Hackberry, Walnut, Elm, Hickory, Pecan, Mesquite, and Mulberry. The exception is with the Fall Elm (or Cedar Elm) tree which pollinates in August, September, and October. The grass pollen season extends from May through August. Weed pollens are observed from July through October. Therefore, for most parts of this country, the atmosphere in the winter months is usually free of pollens. However, central Texas has pollens of Mountain Cedar in the winter months. For example, in Georgetown, the Mountain Cedar pollen count rose from zero on November 3, 1998 to 300 pollens per cubic meter on December 8, and to 4,890 pollens per cubic meter on January 2, 1999.
The culprit is the member of the cypress-juniper (Cupressaceae) family, the Mountain Cedar, Juniperus ashei (also called Juniperus sabinoides or Juniperus mexicana). It grows naturally and is the most allergenic tree in Central Texas. The Mountain Cedar (MC) is an evergreen tree with grey-brown shredding bark, it grows to a maximum height of approximately 30 feet on the limestone plateaus of central Texas, and in smaller favorable areas of Texas, New Mexico, northern Mexico, Arkansas, and Oklahoma. The Junipers have male and female plants, At the ends of its scale-like leaves, the male tree proliferates numerous reddish-brown cones 3 to 4 mm in diameter tipped with pollen, while female trees bear fewer 6 to 8 mm diameter dark blue-green berries (cones). The pollens from the male tree appear as smoke in the air if the branch is physically disturbed. Juniperus ashei (Mountain Cedar) dominates most of the Edwards plateau hill country of central Texas; the trees have become overgrown and a pest for farmers and ranchers.
The Mountain Cedar generally pollinates from November through March with the heaviest pollination during December, January, and February. During this period of heaviest pollination, MC is the only pollen present in significant amounts in the atmosphere of central Texas. This toxic pollen is important particularly to those migrants who have never been exposed to it. Many patients correlate their symptoms with Christmas Day. National Allergy Bureau (NAB) data shows that in central Texas, Juniper pollen grains appear as early as October. Specifically, MC appears in December and peaks in January. Juniper remains elevated until April, and are occasionally seen as late as May.
The pollen is very buoyant and may be carried by the air for miles. Among all the junipers, the MC has received the greatest attention as an allergen source. The toxic nature of the MC pollen may lie in its chemical nature. The allergic reactions to MC pollen appear to be attributable to a single, stable, glycoprotein, with high carbohydrate and low protein content. This contrasts with the majority of known allergens in pollen grains, which tend to be a mix of allergenic glycoproteins having much lower carbohydrate content. The high carbohydrate content in combination with high density make the pollen of Mountain Cedar unique in causing allergic rhinitis.
In addition to making a person feel ill due to allergies, this condition can interfere in a variety of ways with carrying out one's day to day responsibilities. Loss of sleep, limitation of activities, diminished productivity, poor concentration, emotional distress, irritability, fatigue, and practical problems such as repeated nose blowing and nose rubbing, all impact negatively on ability to carry out physical, social and work/school responsibilities effectively. Similar to other pollen allergens, MC pollens contact the lining tissue of a person's eyes, nose, and lungs. Therefore reducing the duration of exposure to these pollens is important.
Keep windows and doors closed. Use a ventilating system, if necessary, on the indoor cycle (closed vents) to keep the home or vehicle comfortable. Indoor pollen levels are increased by operating window or attic fans. It is helpful to reduce outdoor activities during the periods of high pollen counts. In general, limiting outdoor activities on sunny, windy days with low humidity is advisable. Outdoor activities may be tolerated following a rain.
A shower or bath following outdoor activity removes pollen from the hair and skin and avoids contamination of bedding. In highly sensitive patients whose symptoms are triggered by very low pollen levels, effective allergen avoidance may require an absolute avoidance of outdoor activity.
Some of the above measures may be impracticable, therefore, if you suffer from the symptoms of Mountain Cedar allergy, you should contact your physician for a precise diagnosis and appropriate treatment.
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