The Austin area welcomes an astonishing number of new residents every year. Many people cite our relatively mild climate and amazing year-round outdoor activities as reasons they flock to central Texas. Once they arrive and find themselves paddle boarding on the Colorado River or biking around Lady Bird Lake, they may notice one of the area downsides – seasonal allergies. Austin boasts a robust menu of airborne allergens that wreak havoc on its residents, both new and seasoned.
While many areas of the country experience an allergy reprieve in the winter, Austin has its worst allergy season December through February thanks to the infamous mountain cedar tree. (Oddly, the tree is rarely called by its real name, Ashe juniper.) The male mountain cedar tree releases puffs of up to a billion pollen grains that then get carried for miles by the wind. The pollen clouds float around and sometimes resemble yellow smoke.
The mountain cedar causes “cedar fever,” which does not actually include a fever but is the colloquial term for an allergic reaction to the tree. Cedar fever refers to intense and sometimes debilitating allergy symptoms including nasal congestion, incessant sneezing, itchy/red/burning eyes, sore throat, headache, and fatigue. People may even miss work or school due to the severity of these symptoms!
Once cedar fever mercifully dies down, the new growth and promise of spring brings other tree pollen issues through June. The trees that most affect the Austin area include pecan, elm, oak, ash, and cottonwood. Oak pollen is especially visible and problematic during this time, as it coats cars, sidewalks, and backyard grills in a fine yellow powder. Warm, dry, and windy conditions are a spring allergy-sufferer’s enemy because that is when pollen really gets tossed around in the air.
Another change in season brings a change in allergy triggers. Summer welcomes grass pollen to the forefront of the Austin allergy forecast. Grass pollen spreads thanks to the same warm, dry, windy conditions as spring, and frequent lawn mowing churns everything up and throws the pollen and even dust into the air as well. Mold can prove problematic during the summer, especially after it rains and humidity spikes.
Fall is an especially popular time for outdoor activities in Austin. Football games, Austin City Limits Music Festival, hiking, biking, and general relief that the dog days of summer are over mean people take advantage of a dip in temperature by heading outside. Unfortunately, weed pollens also like to come out and play in the fall. Ragweed is the worst offender. It can grow taller than a person and produces a ton of potent pollen. Weed pollen usually peaks in October and begins to lessen in November – just in time for mountain cedar to make its unwelcome appearance in December.
Living in the beautiful, dynamic Austin area does not doom you to suffer from hay fever (allergic rhinitis) forever! If you find yourself experiencing persistent allergy symptoms like runny nose, sneezing, itchy or watery eyes, and congestion around the same time(s) each year for weeks or even months at a time, you may be one of the many Texans battling seasonal allergies. One of Greater Austin Allergy’s highly trained physicians will guide you through the process of identifying your allergy triggers. Based on your allergens and symptoms, an individualized treatment plan will address your needs. Medication can work wonders in some patients. Others choose immunotherapy (allergy drops or allergy shots), which builds up your body’s immunity to allergens over time. Come in to see us at one of our six locations in Austin before your symptoms start for the season so we can help you win the Austin allergy battle!