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Texas dealing with blizzard of pollen

SAN ANTONIO, Jan. 17 (UPI) -- Much of the nation has been battling cold and snow, but people in South Texas are dealing with a massive blizzard of pollen, an allergist says.

Dr. Paul Ratner, an allergist and pollen specialist who is head of Sylvana Research in San Antonio, says record-breaking mountain cedar pollen counts are causing even the least symptomatic to suffer.

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Mountain cedar, also called ashe juniper, grow in south-central Oklahoma and Texas. In addition to being very allergenic, mountain cedar pollen is unique in the timing of peak pollen release -- December and January. It is responsible for a mid-winter hay fever called "cedar fever" in Texas.

"In all my life, I have never seen so much mountain cedar pollen, especially in the Texas hill country," Ratner says in a statement. "To call what is happening a blizzard of pollen would not be an exaggeration."

The pollen can cause a severe allergic reaction in winter, with strengths 20 to 30 times worse than ragweed.

Ratner and other allergists say they are excited about the opening of a new environmental pollen chamber to study the effects of mountain cedar and other pollens on test subjects.

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