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2012-01-12

- Second opinion - Is it 'cedar fever' or a cold?

Lauren Langford, MD

Cedar allergy is an enormous health problem to many people in Texas.

Cedar trees generally pollinate from November through March with the heaviest pollination during December, January, and February. During this period of heaviest pollination, cedar is the only pollen present in significant amounts in the atmosphere of central Texas.

From December through February, many people experience an itchy, runny nose, sneezing, nasal blockage, excess tearing and itchy eyes. Others complain of itching of the palate, throat, or ears and postnasal drainage. Some have fatigue, mild headache, facial discomfort, sore throat, partial loss of sense of smell and sensation of ear plugging.

Allergies to this type of tree pollen also trigger asthma. Many patients correlate their symptoms with Christmas Day.

There are ways to figure out whether you have a common cold, or are reacting to the cedar. A key difference is through what you are blowing out of your nose.

Disgusting? Yes.

Important? Absolutely.

When you are reacting to allergens in the air, the mucus should run clear.

If you are suffering from a cold, your mucus will be thick and greenish or discolored, from an infection.

Colds are also usually shorter in duration. A normal bacterial infection will last a couple days to around a week, while an allergic reaction will last as long as the pollen is in the air. That could be a couple of months.

Taking the necessary precautions and treating your symptoms as soon as you feel them can make this time more bearable. A fever may occur if you have a bad cold or sinus infection, but this usually does not happen with allergies. The name Cedar Fever is a misnomer, because it has nothing to do with a fever.

Because cedar fever is an allergy to cedar pollen, the symptoms can be treated the same way as any other seasonal pollen allergy. And just like any allergic reaction, it could easily and quickly turn into something much worse. When the symptoms are left untreated, your sinuses will become clogged and can turn into a sinus infection. If that happens, you will be begging for that common cold.

When living in cedar country, the best defense against pollen is to stay indoors as much as possible.

Take a shower and change your clothes after being outdoors for a long period of time. This will protect you from pollen that lands on your clothes and in your hair.

Take allergy medicines exactly as prescribed. If you know cedar will be a problem for you each winter, see your doctor in early fall to update your treatment plan and stock up on prescription allergy medications.