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Cedar Fever's arrived: How to treat it and tell it apart from COVID-19

Cedar Fever is expected to persist into 2022. (Pexels)

The dreaded “Cedar Fever” is here just in time for the holidays and is overstaying its welcome—expect to be sneezing through February.

According to Texas Children's Specialty Care Austin allergy and immunology specialist Dr. Alison Humphrey, tree allergies are slated to take over from here until halfway through 2022. Cedar season began in late November and will last until Valentine's Day when oak allergies take its place.

Allergies are caused by local plants, trees, grasses and weeds that depend on wind to pollinate themselves—the wind carries the particles over long distances, which are extremely fine and easy to breathe in, attach to clothing and make you sneeze. Perhaps the most experienced in Austin is from cedar trees.

Go here to check the local allergy forcast.

How to treat it

The number one item to grab on your next grocery store run is a daily nasal steroid, like Flonase or Rhinocort. You might also want to change clothes and clean your pets after spending time outside. If you’re still struggling while using the steroid, add an over-the-counter antihistamine to the mix.

“If you're doing those things, especially that nasal steroid, you're using it every single day and still not getting better, then definitely go see your allergist,” Humphrey said.

Is it allergies or COVID?

The symptoms of cedar allergies can feel very similar to COVID if you have a predisposition to extreme allergies or you’re new in town. Since most seasonal allergies come from plants native to Central Texas, newbies are likely to develop symptoms within a few years of relocating to Austin.

“One of the top questions we ask when we're meeting new patients is, ‘how long have you lived here?’” Humphrey said. “People may come and just have a worsening of the allergies they already have or they move here and develop allergies to... mountain cedar here in Central Texas.”

Thankfully, there are ways to tell the two apart from each other without having to get tested.

(Laura Figi/Austonia)

There is a lot of overlap between the two illnesses but your signal to make an appointment with the doctor is a fever, which is a hallmark COVID symptom. If you’re itchy anywhere, it’s an allergic reaction, as itching is almost always a sign of allergen sensitivity.

You may find yourself struggling with allergies year-round—this is normal given Austin’s pleasant weather fostering allergens in all four seasons. Cedar will rage on until February, followed by oak until May, June is often a slight reprieve from sneezing but ragweed takes over from July-October. There are also some year-long allergens, like grass and mold.

“Some people will find that it gets better through different stages of their life. Other times we tend to see it wane over time as people get older, into their senior and elderly years,” Humphrey said. “Otherwise, once you have those allergies, to a certain local allergen they tend to persist to some degree, it might just be that some years are worse than others.”


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