Some noses in Austin may have already noticed that cedar trees have started pollinating — but the highest levels of airborne pollen are expected in the next few weeks. Before the sniffling and sneezing starts, here are some answers to common questions about cedar fever:
How long does cedar fever last?
The cedar pollination season typically lasts from December through March. But unseasonably warm, dry and windy weather can trigger the release of pollen sooner or intensify the concentration of airborne pollen. Often, the best hope for abating the pollen is rain, which keeps the grains from taking flight. The truth is, Central Texas has something to make you sneeze all year-round — spring grasses, summer ragweed, mold whenever it rains — but January is when cedar pollen is particularly potent, allergists say.
We’re sniffling already, is it cedar?
It’s not so bad yet. Cedar pollen in December has been kept in check largely by recent rounds of light rain and fog, but the increased moisture and humidity have triggered a boom in mold spores. Cedar pollen in December has stayed at manageable levels, mostly below 50 grains per cubic meter, according to data from our weather partners at KVUE-TV. But pollen hit historically high concentrations near this time last year on Dec. 29, when allergists at Allergy & Asthma Associates reported a count of 21,952 grains per cubic meter.
Can’t we just kill all the cedar trees?
No, for a few reasons: First, the trees aren’t actually “cedar,” they’re Ashe juniper trees. Also, it would be impractical to remove the trees from about 10 million acres across the Edwards Plateau, says Jim Rooni, the chief regional forester and head of Central Texas operations for the Texas A&M Forest Service. He told the American-Statesman earlier this year that removing even a few of them would require expensive, mechanical means, such as a bulldozer.
OK, so how do you survive?
First, try to limit your pollen exposure by staying indoors when you can with the windows closed. If you do go outside, change your clothes because they likely carry cedar pollen. Try taking showers at night to wash the pollen off your skin and hair. This can help keep your pillow from becoming tainted with pollen.
How can you tell the difference between allergies and a cold?
For starters, cedar fever doesn’t come with a fever the way colds or the flu do. But cedar allergies can lead to a sinus infection, which could cause a fever, but the fever is not a direct result of the allergy. Cedar fever mostly makes you feel rundown and inspires itchy eyes, sneezing and a runny nose. However, because it’s cold and flu season, consider visiting a doctor to rule out flu or strep throat.
How can you treat cedar fever?
Antihistamines can help with the irritated eyes and nose, but some types of treatment can cause drowsiness. Beyond that, just try to keep the mess to a minimum. Practice good hygiene, even if cedar fever isn’t contagious: Wash your hands regularly, cough into your elbow, not your hands, and use tissues when you blow their nose — and throw those tissues away.