(What Passes for) Fall in Central Texas

There is really only one season here: Allergy, subdivided into tree and grass pollens in the spring; dust and mold in the summer; ragweed and more grass and tree stuff in the fall; and, there being no reprieve in Austin’s mild winters, the most diabolical of all, what’s affectionately called “cedar fever,” technically caused by the ashe juniper. Some years it’s so bad you can see bluish poufs coming off the trees, making the air look smoky.

I lived in Austin 12 years before succumbing to allergies and now I’m allergic to everything, year-round. Symptoms include, in addition to the usual stuffy nose, watery eyes and scratchy throat, itchy ears and occasional dizziness. I had 2 ½ years of allergy shots and took  fexofenadine (Allegra) for many years before it quit working last winter.

I had a sinus infection in November and another in December. In January I was working on a third and, upon several friends’ recommendation, switched to D-Hist. Within 36 hours I could breathe again.

This fall I tried to pre-empt the attack and started saline nasal spray and saltwater gargle a few weeks ago, but this morning I woke up with a stuffy nose and a headache—the usual precursors.

So I’m on the attack, taking extra vitamin C, the full loading dose of D-Hist, ordinary vitamins, soup with extra garlic for lunch, ibuprofen, and my favorite home remedy, what I call “magic tea.” I recommend it as soon as symptoms strike. I use the whiskey only if I’m planning on going to bed, and I can’t tolerate honey, but it does make it taste better.

Magic Tea

1 quart boiling water

1 tea bag, any kind (real or herbal), more if you want stronger tea

fresh ginger –about a thumb-size piece, peeled and chopped fine

1/8 tsp each:



ground clove

cayenne pepper (a little less if you don’t want too much heat)

whole black peppercorns

juice and zest of one fresh lemon

honey (optional)

whiskey (optional)

Open the tea bag and put the cinnamon, cardamom, clove and cayenne in the bag, stapling it shut. (This makes the tea clearer since the spices don’t strain out very well.) Put the ginger, tea bag and peppercorns into a heat-proof quart container and pour boiling water over. Steep for at least five minutes. Strain into another container (squeezing liquid out of the slurry of ginger and pepper at the bottom) and add the lemon zest and juice. Add honey and whiskey if desired. Sip as hot as you can stand it. Store remainder in the refrigerator and microwave to reheat.

The roller coaster weather surely isn’t helping. After temps in the 50s last weekend, it’s warm and humid and the AC is back on. We’ll get real fall weather some time after Thanksgiving, when the trees turn rusty and compete with the Christmas decorations.

The heavy weaponry in my arsenal.


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