'Tis the season: Mountain cedar pollen count rises across South Texas

Symptoms include runny nose, itchy eyes, sneezing

SAN ANTONIO – Runny nose, fits of sneezing and itchy red eyes -- all signs of the mountain cedar in the air.

Thursday's count for mountain cedar was at 24,990 grains per cubic meter of air. Similar numbers were recorded on Friday. Anything over a few hundred grains per cubic meter is considered high.

Local allergist Dr. Paul Ratner said he has been seeing a lot of posts on his Facebook page this week.

One post reads, "Cedar is killing me." Others read, "I'm sick. I'm miserable. Mountain cedar, you are not my friend. Go away."

Ratner said mountain cedar season usually starts up around Dec. 20 and extends through January and early February. This year, it took about a week to reach “high levels.”  

"It's been very busy ever since New Year's weekend," Ratner said. "Things have really started to pick up. That's when the counts really started to go up."

And, with a cold front moving in, he expects the count to get even higher.

"A lot of it is triggered by the cold temperatures, the north winds that come down from the Hill Country and blow that pollen off," Ratner said. "And, we had a lot of abundant rain in the fall and late summer and that sort of fueled the trees up."

But relief for the symptoms that come along with it, like sneezing and a runny nose, can now be found over the counter.

Ratner said a nasal steroid like Flonase can help or an antihistamine, like Claritin or Zyrtec.

At the Oak Hills Pharmacy, pharmacist Stu Walker said they sell a lot of allergy medicine during this time of the year.

"My wife, when I left the house this morning, she was sneezing," Walker said. "And, she typical doesn't have allergies, even she had allergies."

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