It’s hard not to feel like the trees are out to get you when you’re an allergy sufferer in Texas, land of year-long pollen. Cedar fever is a great example. Also called allergic rhinitis, cedar fever is an extreme allergy common in areas with juniper trees and mountain cedar like Central Texas, where they’re concentrated in particularly high numbers. Unlike most plants that release their pollen when it’s warm, cedar and juniper trees pollinate in the winter. Though beautiful, these trees all release their pollen at once, just after cold fronts, thus causing cedar fever.
The kicker: The cedar pollen itself doesn’t cause allergies so much as the sheer volume of it that junipers and cedars release at the same time, overwhelming the air with their pollen and triggering sudden, severe allergy symptoms anyway, even in people who normally don’t have allergies.
Depending on the concentration levels of cedar or juniper trees in your area, the pollen clouds can be strikingly visible, appearing like a visible yellow cloud hovering around the trees as one Central Texas resident put it. If you don’t get a good luck after the first cold front, you’ll have many more opportunities to catch a glimpse of the pollen that ails you: Cedar Fever season runs from November through March, and tends to be at its worst between December and February.
Even if your location makes it unlikely that you’ll avoid Cedar pollen this winter, you can still make moves now simply by knowing what to expect from Cedar fever, and what you can do to mitigate its effects.
What Does Cedar Fever Feel Like?
Cedar and juniper pollen cause allergy symptoms when your immune system mistakes it for something that can hurt you and adjusts to defend your body from it. Though the pollen itself is harmless, your body protects itself by producing chemicals to fight it off. As a result, you end up with allergy symptoms, which in the case of cedar fever can hit so suddenly and severely that it can feel much like you’re getting the flu.
Symptoms of Cedar Fever:
- Extreme fatigue
- Sore throat
- Runny nose
- Mild fever
- Itchy or watery eyes
- Difficulty smelling
Since cedar fever occurs during cold and flu season and causes a sudden allergic reaction, it can be tricky to tell which you have if you experience symptoms. One way to tell the difference is to check out the color of your mucus: if it’s clear you probably have cedar fever or a virus. If it’s colored, your symptoms are likely not from cedar fever.
Get Relief for Symptoms: Treatment For Cedar Fever
If you’ve done your best to avoid cedar pollen and you’re still experiencing allergy symptoms, certain medications may provide relief. Cedar fever symptoms are usually treated with antihistamines, decongestants, or steroid nose sprays.
- Nasal corticosteroids (nasal sprays for inflammation) may alleviate symptoms of congestion and inhibit allergic reactions.
- Antihistamines can help alleviate symptoms like runny noses, sneezing, and itchy eyes.
- Decongestants can help with congestion by shrinking swollen nasal passages.
If over the counter medication doesn’t provide you relief from ragweed allergies, talk to your doctor about exploring other treatment options, like corticosteroids or anti-inflammatory medications.
How To Survive Cedar Fever Season
The best way to avoid allergies is to avoid the allergen, but that’s not a practical strategy in Texas where cedars and junipers abound. Even though you can’t totally get away from cedar pollen, you can still minimize your exposure to it with these strategies:
Keep an eye on the pollen forecast and minimize outdoor time when the pollen count is high. Wearing a mask when you do go outside can offer some protection as well, and keeping your hair tied back gives pollen fewer places to land, so you’ll carry less of the pollen home with you.
You can also minimize exposure by being mindful about keeping pollen out of your house. Wipe down your pets when they come in, change clothes when you do, and keep your doors and windows closed. Set calendar alerts to remember to change your HVAC filters, too!
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