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Cedar fever or COVID-19? How you can tell the difference

Posted at 6:38 PM, Jan 04, 2021
and last updated 2021-01-04 19:52:46-05

COLLEGE STATION, TX — Ceder fever is here, and oh the timing Brazos County!

To begin, cedar fever is not the flu or a virus - it's an allergic reaction to the pollen released by mountain cedar trees.

“Cedar fever is the worst west of I-35, where you have primarily juniper, mixed in with oaks, and some other species,” said Jonathan Motsinger, the Central Texas Operations department head for the Texas A&M Forest Service.

While pollination in the winter is uncommon, Cedar trees are the exception; the likes of which, actually prefer to pollinate right after a cold front when their air tends to dry out, wind picks up, and pressures change.

According to Robert Edmonson, a biologist for the Texas A&M Forest Service, pollen from Ashe junipers are actually not particularly allergenic or harmful – it’s just so concentrated that, even if you aren’t generally susceptible to allergies, it could still affect you.

“Under those conditions, every single pollen cone on a juniper tree will open at one time, and it looks like the trees are on fire. It looks like there’s smoke coming off of them.” Edmonson added.

“There’s just so much pollen in the air, it absolutely overwhelms the immune system, it’s like trying to breathe in a dust storm.” he added.

Since pollen spreads via wind, cedar fever can affect individuals in Central Texas, far removed from areas with a high-concentration of juniper trees.

This year, however, could be particularly problematic, since many symptoms align with symptoms caused by the novel coronavirus. For anyone concerned though, there are a few tell-tale signs to be on the look out for.

To start off, cedar pollen will rarely cause your body temperature to surpass 101.5. Should your fever exceed that temperature, then pollen is likely not the cause.

According to Healthline, cedar fever includes common symptoms such as overall fatigue, sore throat, runny nose, partial loss of one's smell and, yes, some people may actually run a fever.

Other symptoms though, such as itchy, watery eyes, blocked nasal passages and sneezing are common of cedar fever... but not COVID-19.

So how does one tell if they are experiencing cedar fever or the novel Coronavirus?

The "dead giveaway", according to Edmonson, is actually quite "clear".

"If your mucus is running clear", he said, "then it's an allergy. If it's got color, then it's probably a cold or the flu." Edmonson added.

Generally, cedar fever is often treated through allergy medications and antihistamines. However, one should consult with their physician or health care professional before taking any new medications.

One may also consider checking local pollen counts, keep windows and doors closed, limit time outdoors, and changing their air filters found in the home and inside their cars.