December 13, 2021
You May Have Cedar Fever, not a Cold or Flu
Cedar fever is an allergic reaction to the pollen released by mountain cedar trees. The predominant species is the Ashe Juniper found right the heart of central Texas.
Some claim it is worse west of I-35 due to the junipers that are mixed up with oaks and other species. All the junipers produce pollen at the same time, thus producing a higher concentration of pollen in the air. The sheer quantity and density of Ashe junipers in Central Texas is one of the main factors contributing the allergy impact.
The pollen from Ashe junipers isn’t more allergenic nor harmful than other evergreens – it’s just so concentrated that even if you aren’t generally susceptible to allergies, it could still affect you. The impact of literal clouds of that much pollen in the air absolutely overwhelms the immune system. It has been described as “trying to breathe in a dust storm.”
Cedar Fever season is at hand, affecting people November through April peaking with the highest levels of pollen December through February. So, pretty much all winter, which is unexpected. Most trees pollinate in the spring during the traditional allergy season. Very few plants pollinate in winter. The cedar tree is one of them. They need the cold air to pollinate, so the optimum time to release pollen is right after a cold front. In comes the wind, the air dries out and the air pressure is different. Amazingly, every single pollen cone on a juniper tree will open at one time! The effect is startling – it seems as if the trees are smoldering, and smoke is lifting from them.
While this inspires a fascinating imagery, it also creates serious mayhem for anyone with even an offhand chance they could be pollen sensitive. For people new to the Central Texas region, or unfamiliar with cedar fever, it can lead to genuine confusion since the pollination period of mountain cedar trees is also in the middle of flu season. In fact, it’s not uncommon for people to mistake cedar fever symptoms as a cold or seasonal flu. These may include fatigue, sore throat, plugged ears, runny nose, partial loss of smell and – believe it or not – some people do run a fever.
This year, cedar fever could be particularly confusing, as many symptoms mimic those of the novel corona virus, but there is a difference. Cedar pollen will rarely cause your body to produce a fever higher than 101.5 If you experience a fever more severe, then pollen isn’t likely the reason. Also, itchy, watery eyes, blocked nasal passages and sneezing all point to allergy, especially if your mucus is running clear. If it is opaque, or yellowish, then it could be a cold or flu.
Symptoms of cedar fever can be relieved, especially if you know that you are specifically allergic to mountain cedar. Greater Austin Allergy offers allergy testing, biologics, shots, cluster immunotherapy, and other courses of testing and treatment. Are there ways to avoid cedar fever all together? Not likely, but you can take steps to reduce exposure. You can anticipate a rise in pollen levels by checking our daily allergy report. Pollen counts will be given for surrounding areas and on those bad days, it’s a smart to keep windows closed and limit your time outdoors.