January 11, 2022
Juniper (Cedar) Allergies: Symptoms & Treatment
While juniper trees can be beautiful and beneficial plants, they can also cause many problems for people with juniper allergies.
Mountain junipers are part of the Juniperus family or category, which comprises roughly 60 to 70 species of evergreen trees and shrubs in the Northern Hemisphere. Junipers are dioecious trees, which means they have both male and female varieties. Sometimes called “cedar trees” they are known to be the cause of "cedar fever". Research has shown that juniper has significant allergenic properties, placing it in the same allergenic category as ragweed, one of the most allergenic pollen types. So unfortunately, for allergy sufferers, the winter months can mean spending the holidays with a chronic sniffle, cough, or sneeze.
To help you manage your juniper allergy this season, let's take a look at some of the symptoms, prevention methods, and treatment options available for juniper allergies.
Juniper Allergy Symptoms
Juniper pollen is unique in that it can cause allergic reactions in those with no other environmental allergy or sensitivity. This high allergenicity has to do with the very small size and lightweight buoyancy of the pollen. Juniper allergy symptoms resemble those of other seasonal pollens and can include the following:
- Itchy, watery eyes
- Congestion (blocked nose) or runny nose
- Sneezing or wheezing
- Allergy headaches
- Sore throat
- Dark circles under the eyes
- Exacerbated asthma
These juniper allergy symptoms can sometimes lead to:
- Poor concentration
- Missed days of work or school
What is cedar fever?
Contrary to its name, cedar fever is not a fever, flu, or virus, but an extreme allergic reaction to the pollen. These are typically severe, heightened reactions to the symptoms above, similar to those of the flu, or fever, but they’re not actually caused by an infection.
When is Juniper Allergy Season?
If you live in the Southwest region of the United States, including states like Texas, New Mexico, and Arizona, it's important to be aware of the juniper allergy season. This is because there are several species of junipers that release pollen at different times throughout the region, with the allergy season starting as early as December and lasting as late as April. This extended pollen season can make it difficult for people with juniper allergies to avoid exposure to the allergen and manage their symptoms.
Late summer and fall mark the time when juniper trees begin to produce tiny cones, or conelets, which mature over a period of two to three months. Once mature, these conelets release grains of pollen from the male trees, which can range in size from about 20 to 30 microns. The airborne juniper pollen can be carried by wind currents for hundreds of miles, and even a small amount of pollen can trigger severe symptoms in people with juniper allergies. This can make it difficult for people living in areas with high juniper pollen counts to escape the allergen, as it can be present in the air for weeks at a time during the juniper pollen season.
If you’re unsure of when it's juniper allergy season in your area, download our free allergy calendar, specific to your location!
Where are Juniper trees found?
Juniper trees are distributed throughout the Northern Hemisphere; however, they are especially plentiful in the western part of the United States. Junipers are to the Southwest what fir trees are to the Northwest: widespread and represented by several species. While they can sometimes look half dead in the winter, they are responsible for some of the most severe allergic reactions.
Foods and Triggers to Avoid If You Have a Juniper Allergy
Cross-Reactivity to Juniper Pollen
And if what you’ve read isn’t bad enough, there’s more. Many patients with juniper allergies can experience symptoms when exposed to other allergens such as other trees, weeds, or grass pollens, making it difficult to determine which pollen is causing the symptoms, especially when pollen seasons overlap.
This is called cross-reactivity and occurs when your body's immune system identifies the proteins, or components, in different substances as being structurally similar or biologically related, thus triggering a response.
Environmental allergens that may cause reactions associated with juniper allergies are:
- Red cedar
- Japanese cedar
- limited with pines and other weeds, tree, and grass pollens
Certain foods might also cause symptoms of itchy or scratchy mouths. This reaction is called oral allergy syndrome. It’s important to also avoid these foods if you have a juniper allergy, as they may cause symptoms of OAS:
Knowing what juniper allergy foods to avoid can help improve your condition.
Testing for Juniper Allergies
It's important for people with allergies to work with their doctor or allergist to identify which allergens are triggering their symptoms. This may involve undergoing allergy testing to determine which pollens, dust mites, or other allergens are causing a reaction.
Skin allergy testing is a method used to identify allergens that can cause allergies. There are different types of skin tests, such as scratch, intradermal, and patch tests. During a skin prick test, healthcare providers introduce allergens into the skin to check for a wheal (raised mark), rash, or other reactions. These tests can identify specific allergens that cause allergy symptoms in children and adults. At Aspire Allergy & Sinus, we test for up to 58 of the most common allergens. Common allergens include trees, grasses, dust, pollen, mold, pet dander, and foods. Skin tests are generally safe for adults and children of all ages, including infants.
Intradermal allergy testing is a type of allergy testing that involves injecting a small amount of allergen extract just under the skin of your arm with a tiny needle. The injection site is then examined after about 15 minutes for signs of an allergic reaction. Intradermal testing is typically used when the skin prick method does not produce a strong result.
Treating Juniper Allergies
There is no need to suffer from your juniper pollen allergy. There are many juniper allergy treatment options available to you, as well as some basic practices you can start right away to bring allergy relief. In addition to allergy immunotherapy, we offer a range of other treatment options, including, sublingual immunotherapy, and sinus treatments. We also utilize the latest technology and techniques to provide safe, effective care for our patients.
Using antihistamines for a juniper allergy
Over-the-counter nasal sprays and antihistamines can also help; however, there are several studies that show negative impacts when used for a long period of time, including weight gain, depression, and even dementia. These medications are not a long-term solution and are not designed to be taken every day for years on end. If this sounds like you, consider allergy immunotherapy.
Most people who have a juniper allergy know it, as they have suffered for years. It’s not uncommon to live in a certain area for many years before a juniper pollen allergy develops. When this is the case, we recommend allergy immunotherapy, which is the process of slowly introducing the problematic allergen into the body so that over time your immune system accepts the allergy and no longer produces a reaction, which are the common symptoms that are associated with juniper allergies.
Sublingual immunotherapy, or allergy drops, is a form of immunotherapy that can help alleviate the symptoms of allergies, including juniper allergies. It involves placing a small amount of an allergen extract, such as juniper pollen, under your tongue for a few minutes each day. Over time, your body becomes less sensitive to the allergen, reducing your symptoms.
ExACT Immunoplasty, also known as intralymphatic immunotherapy, is a relatively new and innovative way of treating allergies, including juniper allergies. It involves injecting a small amount of an allergen extract directly into the lymph nodes, which are responsible for producing immune cells that fight off infections and foreign substances, including allergens. This treatment is considered a more targeted and efficient way of delivering allergen-specific immunotherapy, as it allows for a lower dose of the allergen extract to be used while still achieving effective results. It is also considered to be faster than traditional immunotherapy methods, as patients may start to experience relief within a few weeks rather than months.
Managing Juniper Allergy Symptoms
If you’re not ready to proceed with allergy immunotherapy, there are some other simple things you can do right away to minimize your juniper pollen exposure and give you relief. As with most pollen allergies, one of the best ways to limit reactions is to reduce your exposure.
- Keep the doors and windows closed. Since juniper pollen is so small and lightweight, it can easily float into your home through an open window, so be sure to keep everything closed.
- Use an HEPA filter to keep the air clean and help keep pollen outside the home. If juniper pollen does manage to get inside your home, a HEPA air filter will remove the pollen and unwanted particles in the air.
- Implement a regular cleaning schedule that includes regular dusting and vacuuming. Keeping your home clean will help decrease pollen levels in the home and help you have a healthier mindset! You can also vacuum with a HEPA filter to ensure you’re picking up even the smallest particles of juniper pollen.
- Keep in mind that the pollen count is generally highest from early to late morning. If possible, try to schedule your day so that you’re home in the morning and not leaving the house until the afternoon. During juniper allergy season, it’s best to make it a habit to check your local pollen count. We like Pollen.com. This way, you can plan your day accordingly.
- Wear a mask. If you are going outside, try covering your mouth and nose with a mask. This will reduce the severity of respiratory juniper allergy symptoms such as coughing and wheezing. Plus, since juniper allergy season is primarily in the winter, you can keep your face warm as well!
- Use a saline rinse to clear the nasal passages. It can be difficult to find a juniper allergy treatment that works to decongest your nose. Try using a neti pot or navage to rinse your sinuses.
- Bathe and wash your hair at night to avoid bringing pollen into the bed. Juniper pollen is sticky! meaning that each time you step outside, your hair, clothes, and eyelashes are collecting the tiny juniper pollen particles. It’s important to wash all that off after coming inside, so you don’t continue to sit in it and track it around your home.
How Aspire Allergy & Sinus Can Help
At Aspire Allergy & Sinus, we understand the impact that juniper allergies can have on your quality of life. That's why we offer comprehensive allergy testing and treatment options to help you find relief from your symptoms. Our experienced team of allergists and sinus specialists can work with you to develop a personalized treatment plan that meets your needs and helps you manage your allergies over the long term.
Don't let juniper allergies control your life any longer. Schedule an appointment online with Aspire Allergy & Sinus today and take the first step towards finding relief from your symptoms.