Achoo! Sneezy kids might be getting cedar fever

Tips for attacking allergies head on


If your children have started getting itchy, watery eyes and a runny nose, an old nemesis, cedar fever, might be invading again.

This year is expected to be a bad cedar fever season, which typically hits around now, when the misnamed male mountain cedar trees — really the ashe junipers — try to pollinate the female trees. The years of drought followed by rain have caused cedar trees to be thick with pollen. Only an ice storm or a lot of rain could dampen the season.

But before you start blaming the mountain cedar, let’s look at who gets cedar fever, what it is and how to treat it, with the help of Dr. Bradley Berg, medical director for pediatrics at Scott & White Clinic in Round Rock, and Dr. Juan Rodriguez Ramos, an allergist at Austin Regional Clinic.

You have to grow into it

Babies and toddlers don’t get seasonal allergies like cedar fever, right? There is a lot of truth to that, the doctors say.

Babies don’t fully develop an immune system until about 6 months old. They then have to be exposed to cedar pollen and develop a sensitivity.

“It’s unusual to see allergies before age 2,” Rodriguez Ramos says. Typically, a child will first develop an allergy to animal dander or dust mites before they pick up a pollen allergy like cedar fever.

Cedar fever and other allergies also are highly genetic, so if you’re a parent with cedar fever, don’t be surprised if the kids also get it eventually.

How do you know it’s cedar fever?

Cedar fever doesn’t come with a fever, unlike colds, which typically will bring a 100-degree to 101-degree fever, or the flu, which brings a 102-degree to 103-degree fever. Sometimes cedar fever will cause the sinuses to get backed up and lead to a sinus infection, which could cause a fever, but the fever is not a direct result of the allergy.

Cedar fever does make you feel rundown and comes with itchy eyes, sneezing and a runny nose. Because it’s cold and flu season, if you have any doubt, visit a doctor quickly to rule out flu, strep and RSV, all of which are very prevalent right now.

How can you treat cedar fever?

Children and adults have very similar treatment plans. First, try to limit your pollen exposure. This might be the month you stay indoors with the windows closed. If you do go outside, wash off the cedar pollen when you come in. Wash clothes, skin and hair especially.

If you have children who typically take a morning bath or shower, switch to the evening to get all the pollen off before heading to bed.

Clean out the nose as well by using a saline rinse like a neti pot or rinse bottles to get rid of the lingering pollen. Make sure you have a rinse bottle that is made for children.

If you have children who you know are going to suffer, start now (or really a couple weeks ago) by taking a daily over-the-counter antihistamine like Zyrtec, Claritin or Allegra. They all work the same, but some people respond to each of them differently. Berg recommends trying the cheapest generic brand first. If it doesn’t work, switch to another one.

The next step after the over-the-counter medicines is a prescription nasal spray, which will take a couple of days to start working.

Nothing’s working … now what?

It’s probably time to see an allergist, who will go through these previous steps as well and then help you consider if allergy shots might be the next step. Those shots will be no help for this year but can help you build an immunity to cedar for the following season.

Don’t forget to remind kids of good sanitation, even if cedar fever isn’t contagious. Wash hands regularly. Cough into their elbows, not their hands, and use tissues when they blow their nose. (And yes, they have to throw those tissues away, too.)


Reader Comments ...


Next Up in Lifestyle

Today’s horoscopes - Sunday, August 19

ARIES (March 21-April 19). People will find out who you are through your actions, your stories or because you share your preferences. So you really don’t have to worry about telling them who you are. You’re already showing them. TAURUS (April 20-May 20). You’re gutsy. You forget that sometimes. Or rather, you take it for granted,...
Today’s birthdays - Sunday, August 19
Today’s birthdays - Sunday, August 19

Today’s Birthdays: Actor L.Q. Jones is 91. Actress Debra Paget is 85. USTA Eastern Tennis Hall of Famer Renee Richards is 84. Former MLB All-Star Bobby Richardson is 83. Actress Diana Muldaur is 80. Rock musician Ginger Baker (Cream, Blind Faith) is 79. Singer Johnny Nash is 78. Actress Jill St. John is 78. Singer Billy J. Kramer is 75. Country...
Lyme disease is now in all 50 states
Lyme disease is now in all 50 states

If you thought you were safe from Lyme disease because you don’t live in New England, where the tick-borne illness first appeared, think again. Now, all 50 states plus the District of Columbia have residents who have tested positive for Lyme, a bacterial infection that can cause a wide variety of symptoms, including joint aches, fatigue, facial...
UV ratings make a healthy difference in sunglasses
UV ratings make a healthy difference in sunglasses

Not only can the sun’s ultraviolet (UV) rays harm your skin, they can damage your eyes as well. For protection, says the American Academy of Ophthalmology, wear sunglasses that block 99 to 100 percent of both UVA and UVB rays. Retailers say that requires a rating of UV400 or higher. Over time, sun exposure can increase your chances of developing...
Electronic skin allows amputees to ‘feel’ pain and touch
Electronic skin allows amputees to ‘feel’ pain and touch

BALTIMORE — When Gyorgy Levay lost parts of all four extremities, including most of his left arm, to meningitis in 2010, he resolved to make the best of a bad situation. He mastered his state-of-the-art prosthetic replacements. He switched the focus of his graduate studies from electrical to biomedical engineering. The native Hungarian even found...
More Stories