Allergy specialists like Dr. Shelly Harvey are again readying themselves for mountain cedar, the annual irritant that makes noses run and eyes itch – potentially transforming the merriest of holiday well-wishers into miserable Ebenezer Scrooges.
"It is always bad in North Texas, and each year seems to be the 'worst we've ever had,' according to my patients," said Dr. Harvey, who practices at the new Monty and Tex Moncrief Medical Center at Fort Worth. "The warm weather we've had in 2017 has delayed mountain cedar season, but all it takes is a real freeze to initiate the release of pollen."
Once the season starts, it's often a startling sight. Non-Texans have been known to mistake the ashy yellow film coating everything as the result of smog or pollution. Actually, it's pollen from Ashe juniper, post cedar, mountain cedar, or blueberry juniper, a drought-tolerant evergreen tree native to the Southwestern U.S. and Northeastern Mexico.
"Many people with seasonal allergies are allergic to mountain cedar, which is our dominant winter pollen," says Dr. Harvey, an Internal Medicine faculty associate in the Division of Allergy and Immunology at Dallas-based UT Southwestern Medical Center. "In patients allergic to mountain cedar, it can definitely worsen asthma symptoms and if untreated makes the winter miserable. Uncontrolled allergies can also lead to sinus infections."
People with allergies can prepare their defenses at home by switching out air conditioning filters, closing windows, avoiding the outdoors as much as possible – even moving their vehicles into garages if possible – and adopting a frequent clean/rinse cycle for themselves, their clothes, and their outdoor pets.
A host of medication options – including topical antihistamines, decongestants, and nasal steroids – can help with symptoms in concert with a considered medical plan.
"A board-certified allergist is best to correctly diagnose the problem and select appropriate therapies," said Dr. Harvey. "Allergy testing also can provide very useful information to guide therapy.
"If medications do not control symptoms, allergy shots may be an option," she added. "Allergy shots are the closest thing we have to a 'cure' for allergies, as they 'teach' the immune system not to be allergic. 'Rush' immunotherapy is a great way to speed up the allergy shot process, resulting in faster symptom relief and less weekly visits to the allergist for shots."
Fort Worth dignitaries and officials, along with UT Southwestern leaders, dedicated the new Moncrief Medical Center at Fort Worth in June, bringing more than a dozen specialty areas to the heart of the city's Medical District. The three-story, 106,500-square-foot multispecialty outpatient facility, located at 600 S. Main St. at the intersection with West Annie Street, provides local access to UT Southwestern's innovative patient care, informed by state-of-the-art technology, leading-edge research, and clinical trials. The facility complements UT Southwestern's existing presence at the nearby Moncrief Cancer Institute – a satellite of UT Southwestern's Harold C. Simmons Comprehensive Cancer Center, the only National Cancer Institute-designated comprehensive cancer center in the region.