My Doughter’s Cedar Allergies

By Heather Legg

Recently my dog got a new bed, one that smells great and is full of cedar shavings. Lo and behold, what do you know, after my daughter played with her on the new bed, she (my daughter, not the dog) broke out in hives. It was the cedar. She was fine with some Benadryl and we’ll switch out the bed to a non cedar stuffed one, and chalk it up to a lesson learned. I did some research, though, and it’s interesting what I found.

Cedar, apparently, is one of the most allergy causing trees, pollens, and shavings around. One site pointed out that people use it to control moths, in other words, kill moths. If it kills moths, it obviously has some pretty lethal tendencies. The trees are causing quite the problems in Texas, Arkansas, Oklahoma and New Mexico. It is a major source of allergies in Japan as well. There is even an active organization, People Against Cedars.

Exposure to cedar wood is documented as an occupational hazard among timber workers. The culprit is plicatic acid which can cause asthma and other respiratory complications. That can be the cause of allergies that people have to cedar shavings and cedar chests.
Animals have also been documented to have cedar allergeis. In my reading, I found that many animals like mice and gerbils who have cedar shavings in their cages develop rashes or hair loss due to the cedar shavings. When it’s switched to pine, the symptoms go away.

Here’s another story about my daughter’s cedar allergy:

My kids always help my in-laws decorate their Christmas tree around Thanksgiving. My in-laws have been using an artificial tree for as long as I can remember. This year, however, they wanted to go cut one and have a fresh one. Living in the south, the tree farms where you cut your own have cedar trees – pretty sort of lacy branched trees with longer feathery needles. We all went to do that and it was a fun family outing. The tree went up and I noticed my daughter sneezing a little bit. She started to help decorate and sneezed some more, then sort of gave up on the decorating, which she usually loves.

We were spending the night there and the room where she sleeps is very close to the family room with the tree. When she woke up this morning, her eyes looked swollen, her nose was itchy and she said her throat felt funny, not swollen but sort of itchy. Hmmmm, sounds like an allergy to me.

I wasn’t worried because the itch in her throat sounded like an drainage itch, nothing swelling. I knew that she hadn’t eaten anything she’s allergic. It was the tree. The cedar tree.

My daughter is very conscientious and sensitive and made my husband and me promise not to tell my mother-in-law that she was allergic to the tree. She was afraid her grandmother would get rid of it immediately (even though we probably won’t be there again while it’s up). She probably would have, too.

As soon as she went outside to play, she seemed to feel better. In other words, as soon as she got away from the tree she seemed to feel better! It’s a beautiful tree, delicate and Christmasy, but I know one thing – we won’t be getting a cedar tree for our Christmas tree!

It always surprises when I see or hear of a “new” allergy. It shouldn’t, though. We hear of the major food allergies a lot and of ragweed and mold, but there are plenty of other culprits out there to be wary of. If you notice yourself or someone in your family displaying allergy symptoms, it’s caused from something. Use your good detective skills and you find the answer.

13 Comments »

Donna:

when using pet beds and cedars, most animals are allergic to the cedar too. i have hedgehogs, and they have issues with it, so we use aspen.
funny thing is, back in the day, closets used to be lined with cedar paneling…. makes u think!

November 24th, 2010 | 4:41 pm
Jesi:

My grandbaby just came over, what a joy. But she pulled ornaments off the SAME kind of cedar tree ( got a small one because of her, usually I don’t- living alone ). It is a stickery touch, not touch friendly at all, but she’s 16 mos. old and unstoppable. Soon her hands and arms were swelling! Turning red! So was her face. Her mom came right back to get her. I told her there might be a breathing problem, to watch her closely. She will prob. take her to the er just in case. I hope so.
NO MORE CEDARS IN MY HOUSE!

December 1st, 2011 | 7:21 pm
Alan:

I moved to the country 7 years ago. We are surrounded by large cedar trees. |I have had a runny nose, irritated throat, puffy eyes for years. I finally guessed it must be the cedars.

January 25th, 2012 | 5:05 pm
mike:

Does anyone know if cedars can cause serious skin rashes ????

March 6th, 2012 | 6:15 pm
Kat:

I have a cedar chest that I started keeping my linens in. Well 2 days or so after changing my bedsheets I wake up with a rash on my face and neck it itches and burns.

July 26th, 2012 | 7:17 pm
B Sea:

Two days ago was sanding quite a lot of cedar inside my workshop & unknown to me at first, the pickup bag on the sander was not fully closed. Eventually looked up & the work area was full of fine cedar dust! Later That evening, I coughed & sneezed a bit for a couple of hours -no surprise. The next day, I cut up these 20 pieces to the desired lengths on the saw – so another (brief) exposure this time to a much smaller amount of airbourne dust for a shorter time. An hour or so later I was in trouble – I could not stop sneezing! This went on for a few hours, gradually lessening but it didn’t clear up for 18 hours & 3 full boxes of kleenex later. Obviously, I’m now sensitized & will have to be very careful (dust masks etc.) around cedar work in the future & am thankful the reaction didn’t seem to involve the lungs.

November 30th, 2012 | 8:57 am
J garcia:

I just came from the hospital because of sever rach all over my body.I never work with cedar before.I was building a cabinetes for outdoors from cedar.Well I never had no raches or allergies ever.I believe was the cedar duste but the doctors can tell I’m going to see a infection doctor.

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November 18th, 2014 | 6:21 pm
kbe:

My house was built in the 50′s and both my daughter have cedar closets. I can’t stand the smell of them and they always feel dirty to me. My oldest is now being treated for environmental allergies even though her initial tests came back negative (for the “typical” environmental allergies). I’m wondering if its the cedar. Any ideas as to how to “cover” it without having to remove the cedar from the closets? I’m afraid removing might be a huge dusty mess. Thank you!

November 24th, 2014 | 12:14 pm
Rivkah Nelson:

kbe, a water based polyurethane should work.

December 2nd, 2014 | 4:52 pm
Bostonian:

My dad has had a walk in cedar closet as his bedroom closet for 15yrs. Over the passed 5yrs or so he’s developed respiratory problems that are still undiagnosed. I’m wondering if they’re due at least in part to the cedar? His clothes constantly smell of cedar. He doesn’t notice it but I notice the smell on him. He has an appointment with a pulmonary doctor tomorrow I’m going to make sure he mentions it. He’s never thought of it before and probably thinks I’m crazy but I’m just now thinking maybe it’s a factor. Reading this article maybe it’s at least aggravating another condition. ?

December 18th, 2014 | 4:02 am
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