January 11, 2022
Juniper (Cedar) Allergies: Symptoms & Treatment
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 “cedars,” species from the Juniperus family are pollinated by wind and include mountain cedar, cedar juniper, and juniper redberry trees.
During late summer and fall, tiny cones (conelets) will begin to form on each tree, and after about two to three months these conelets mature. The male trees will release grains of pollen that range in size from about 20 to 30 microns, which is small enough to become airborne and cause major problems for allergy sufferers miles and miles away.
Research has shown that mountain cedar 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.
When is Mountain Juniper Allergy Season?
Because there are several species of junipers that release pollen at different times throughout the Southwest,including Texas, New Mexico, and Arizona, the pollen season for these trees can start as early as December and last as late as April.
What Are the Most Common Juniper Allergy Symptoms and How Can I Tell If I’m Allergic to Juniper?
Juniper pollens are unique, in that they can cause allergic reactions in those with no other environmental allergy or sensitivity. This high allergenicity has to do with the size and buoyancy of the pollen – very small and very lightweight.
Juniper allergy symptoms resemble that 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 symptoms can sometimes cause:
- Loss of sleep or poor sleep
- Poor concentration
Cross-Reactivity to Juniper Pollen
And if what you’ve read isn’t bad enough, there’s more. Many patients with mountain juniper or cedar tree 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 are overlapping.
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. Other respiratory allergens that may cause reactions associated with mountain juniper pollen allergy are: junipers, cypresses, red cedar, Japanese cedar, and limited with pines and other weed, tree, and grass pollens.
Where is Mountain Juniper found?
Junipers are distributed throughout the Northern Hemisphere, however they are especially plentiful in the south 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 in winter.
I’m Allergic to Juniper Pollen, Now What?
There is no need to suffer from your juniper pollen allergy. There are many treatment options available to you, as well as some basic practices you can start right away to bring allergy relief.
Most people who are allergic to juniper pollen 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 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.
But if you’re not ready to proceed with allergy immunotherapy, there are some other simple things you can do right away to minimize your exposure and give you relief.
Things You Can Do At Home to Minimize Your Juniper Pollen Allergy Symptoms
As with most pollen allergies, one of the best ways to limit reactions is to reduce your exposure.
- Keep the doors and windows closed
- Use an HVAC filter to keep air clean and help keep pollen outside of the home
- Implement a regular cleaning schedule that includes regular dusting and vacuuming (one to two times a week is usually good)
- Consider using a HEPA filter, as well as a HEPA vacuum cleaner
- Keep in mind that the pollen count is generally highest from early to late morning, so if possible try to schedule your day so that you’re home in the morning and not leaving the house until after noon
- Wear a mask. Now that we all have a gazillion masks laying around, wear one when you go outside if the pollen count is high.
- Use an over the counter saline rinse to clear the nasal passage
- Check local pollen counts and stay indoors when pollen counts are high
- Wash bedding at least once a week in hot water; dry all clothes in a dryer as opposed to line drying
- Bathe and wash hair at night to avoid bringing pollen into the bed
- Remove shoes when entering the home
I Take An Antihistamine Every Day for My Juniper Allergies. Is that a Good Solution?
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.