Other than the frigid weather, one reason why people dread the coming of winter is the prevalence of cedar fever. Cedar fever is a seasonal allergy caused by a reaction to the pollen of mountain cedar trees.
An allergic reaction to mountain cedar has many symptoms, including a runny or stuffed-up nose, conjunctivitis (red, itchy eyes), sneezing, and sinus blockage. Some people suffering from mountain cedar pollen allergy also complain of a headache, tiredness, sore throat, partial loss of smell and hearing. Mountain cedar fever peaks when the trees are pollinating. Cedar fever does not actually cause body temperature to elevate, but the inflammation resulting from the allergic reaction can lead to a slight fever.
The pollen of mountain cedar is light and small, capable of traveling hundreds of miles on a swift wind. This allows the pollen to spread across wide swaths of the country and be inhaled by countless people. Once the pollen is inhaled, the allergic reaction will begin to affect people with a sensitivity to the allergen. The allergy is caused by an oversensitive immune system that kicks up its response in an attempt to protect the body from the perceived intruder. This type of reaction is necessary for protecting the body against bacteria, viruses, and harmful chemicals. However, it is not an appropriate response against harmless allergens. In the case of allergies, the body’s efforts to protect itself actually does more harm than good.
Allergies to mountain cedar pollens are common from November to March, with the heaviest concentrations filling the air between December and February. Most people cannot completely hide from the effects of the pollen because they are so ubiquitous. However, if you are sensitive to mountain cedar, here are a few steps you can take to minimize your exposure to the allergen:
- Regularly replace the filters of your cooling and heating unit. HEPA filters cost a little more, but they can help keep allergenic particles out
- Clean frequently, including dusting and vacuuming.
- If you’ve spent a lot of time outdoors, undress before coming inside, and put your clothing directly into a hot water wash. Wash your hair and body, too, to remove hitchhiking pollens.
- If you have cedar trees in your yard, you may need to cut them down and replace them with a less allergenic tree.
- Shut your doors and windows—no matter how good that crisp air feels. Otherwise, you’ll be inviting the allergens inside.
If you are continually affected by mountain cedar or other pollens, consider visiting a sublingual immunotherapy clinic for under-the-tongue allergy drops. The drops work much like allergy shots, but they are safer and can be taken on-the-go rather than at the doctor’s office.