cedar fever tree with thermometer and virus illustration

What is Cedar Fever? (Explained)

by | Updated: Jan 28, 2023

Cedar fever, also known as allergic rhinitis, is a type of allergic reaction that occurs in some people who are exposed to the pollen of a certain species of juniper trees.

It’s often mistaken for the flu or a virus; however, it’s actually an extreme allergy that often appears in the winter months. In this article, we’ll discuss the causes, symptoms, and treatment options for cedar fever, as well as some ways to prevent it.

What Causes Cedar Fever?

Cedar fever doesn’t actually come from an allergic reaction to cedar trees. Instead, it’s caused by the juniper tree pollen commonly found in central Texas. These trees release a large amount of pollen into the air that can be wind-blown hundreds of miles from the original source.

The trees have unique pollination patterns and release their pollen in the air following a cold front, typically in the winter months. The weather conditions from December to early March are ideal for the spread of pollen, which causes many people to experience the unwanted signs and symptoms of cedar fever.

Note: Some people are more sensitive to the pollen and are more likely to experience an allergic reaction.

Signs and Symptoms

The signs and symptoms of cedar fever may include:

  • Nasal congestion
  • Sneezing
  • Sore throat
  • Mild fever
  • Itchy and watery eyes
  • Itchy nose or throat
  • Cough
  • Headache
  • Fatigue
  • Plugged ears
  • Dark circles under the eyes (i.e., allergic shiners)
  • Loss of taste or smell

Cedar fever is an allergic reaction that shares symptoms with common illnesses such as the flu, common cold, or COVID-19. However, a key differentiator is that cedar fever often causes itchy, watery eyes and severe nasal congestion.

Furthermore, the symptoms are often worse for people with pre-existing conditions, such as asthma, COPD, or chronic bronchitis. If you experience any of the above-mentioned signs or symptoms, it’s best to consult a doctor for proper diagnosis and treatment.

cedar fever illustration

Treatment Options

Cedar fever symptoms can be annoying and disruptive, but fortunately, there are several ways to treat and manage the condition. One of the most effective ways to treat cedar fever is to avoid exposure to the allergen.

This means staying indoors on days when the pollen count is high, using filtered air conditioning, and keeping windows and doors closed. You should also consider avoiding activities that stir up pollen, such as mowing the lawn. If you must go outside, consider wearing a face mask to reduce your exposure to pollen.

Over-the-counter or prescription medications can also help relieve the symptoms of cedar fever. Antihistamines can be taken orally or applied as nasal sprays to reduce nasal congestion and sneezing. Decongestants can also be effective in relieving nasal congestion and sinus pressure. Nasal corticosteroids can also be used to reduce inflammation in the nasal passages.

The symptoms of cedar fever typically go away on their own once the pollen count goes down and you are no longer exposed to the allergen.

However, if you experience severe symptoms that persist, it’s important to see a healthcare provider. They may prescribe stronger medications or suggest allergy shots, which can help to desensitize your body to the allergen and reduce the severity of your symptoms.

What to Take for Cedar Fever?

There are several measures you can take to help relieve the symptoms of cedar fever and manage the condition, including over-the-counter or prescription medications. This includes the following:

  • Antihistamines: These medications work by blocking the action of histamine, a chemical produced by the body during an allergic reaction. Antihistamines can be taken orally or applied as nasal sprays to reduce nasal congestion, sneezing, and itchy eyes. Some examples include loratadine (Claritin), cetirizine (Zyrtec), and fexofenadine (Allegra).
  • Decongestants: These medications work by narrowing the blood vessels in the nasal passages, which helps to reduce swelling and congestion. Decongestants can be taken orally or applied as nasal sprays. Some examples include pseudoephedrine (Sudafed) and phenylephrine (Sudafed PE).
  • Nasal corticosteroids: These medications work by reducing inflammation in the nasal passages, which can help to relieve congestion and other symptoms of cedar fever. Some examples include fluticasone (Flonase) and mometasone (Nasonex).

Note: Some antihistamines, decongestants, and nasal corticosteroids are available only with a prescription. Talk to your doctor or pharmacist about which medications are right for you.

FAQ

How is Cedar Fever Diagnosed?

A healthcare provider can diagnose cedar fever by examining your symptoms or by performing allergy testing, such as skin prick or blood tests.

How Long Do Cedar Fever Symptoms Last?

Cedar fever typically occurs from December to early March. Some people may experience symptoms of cedar fever for the entire duration of the pollen season, while others may have symptoms that come and go throughout the season.

What are the Primary Symptoms of Cedar Fever?

The symptoms of cedar fever are related to allergic inflammation of the respiratory system, including the nose, sinuses, throat, and lungs. Two primary symptoms include 1) itchy, watery eyes and 2) severe nasal congestion.

What is the Difference Between a Cedar Tree and Juniper Tree?

Cedar and juniper trees are closely related, and many people mistakenly refer to them as the same tree. However, cedar trees are tall, pyramid-shaped trees that are native to the Mediterranean and are known for their fragrant wood.

Juniper trees are native to a variety of environments and have a wide range of growth habits, from small shrubs to tall trees. The primary difference is that true cedar trees have needles, while juniper leaves contain scales. Furthermore, cedar trees typically have cones, while juniper trees have berries.

When is Cedar Fever in Texas?

Cedar fever is a common allergic reaction in the central and southern parts of Texas. It is caused by the pollination of juniper trees that typically occurs from late December to early March.

This means that the cedar fever season in Texas typically falls within this time frame.

However, the exact duration of the cedar fever season can vary from year to year and from region to region, depending on factors such as weather conditions and the timing of the pollination cycle.

When is Cedar Fever in Austin, TX?

As previously mentioned, cedar fever typically occurs in the central and southern parts of Texas from late December to early March. Austin is located in this region; therefore, the cedar fever season in Austin typically coincides with the rest of the state.

Final Thoughts

Cedar fever can be frustrating, but it is important to remember that it’s manageable with proper treatment and precautions. Again, if you are experiencing severe symptoms or are not responding to over-the-counter medications, don’t hesitate to contact a healthcare provider for additional help and guidance.

Written by:

John Landry, BS, RRT

John Landry is a registered respiratory therapist from Memphis, TN, and has a bachelor's degree in kinesiology. He enjoys using evidence-based research to help others breathe easier and live a healthier life.

References

  • Mendoza JC, Quinn J. Mountain cedar allergy: A review of current available literature. Ann Allergy Asthma Immunol. 2022 Jun;128(6):645-651. doi: 10.1016/j.anai.2021.09.019. Epub 2021 Sep 25. PMID: 34582944. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/34582944/.

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