Cedar fever could be even worse than normal this year – so get ready

Photo by Ralph Barrera
Photo by Ralph Barrera

This winter could be a particularly nasty season for cedar fever.

Central Texas is coming off a year of rainy weather, which helps the vegetation but also means ash juniper (aka mountain cedar) is robust. That means everyone should soon expect those nasty “smoke” clouds that rise when cold fronts blow in.

One in five Central Texans suffer from cedar fever, according to experts from Baylor Scott & White Health. Those new to Central Texas, beware: You may be susceptible to cedar fever and not know it. If you do have an allergy, you’ll know it soon. Even people who have lived here for years without symptoms can suddenly develop them.

Cedar fever can feel like a cold or flu. The Texas A&M College of Medicine recently published a guide to identifying whether you’ve got allergies, a cold or the flu; the easiest way to tell if cedar fever is the cause is particularly itchy eyes and bad coughing without deep muscle aches or a fever.

Cedar fever is a colloquialism and the allergy does not actually bring on a fever. Breathing can be difficult, though.

“You can’t function well if you can’t breathe,” said Dr. Goddy Corpuz, a pediatrician at Baylor Scott & White’s Cedar Park Clinic who often sees patients with bad allergies.

Cedar fever season tends to last from the start of December until March, though it has been known to persist into May. Those looking for treatment should fire up the DeLorean, find a nice flat stretch of country road on which to get it up to 88 mph and travel back to somewhere between six months and a year ago. That was the best time to start building up an immunity through steps such as allergy shots. Failing that, over-the-counter allergy medications can help, as can nasal rinsing.

For some, that will not be enough. Allergists can check for allergies through both the traditional skin tests and blood work.

“If a patient knows they have a history of sensitivity to cedar, we need to get them treated early, in some cases with allergy shots – the earlier the better,” said Dr. Rachel Osborne, a pediatrician at Baylor Scott & White Clinic-Georgetown Central. “If we can nip it in the bud before the season starts, we can keep things manageable throughout the season. But if you come in when you’re suffering at the peak of cedar season, then we won’t be able to do quite as much to help you.”

Those who have not had a flu shot probably should get one, to avoid contracting both the flu and cedar fever, Corpuz said.

Austin’s latest ranking: We’re no. 58! We’re no. 58! (in allergies)

Austin styles itself the allergy capital of the world, and with cedar fever, something to be allergic to nearly year-round and the city’s frequent appearances near the top of top-10 lists, it’s an understandable assumption.

But this spring Austin has ceded the title, according to the Asthma and Allergy Association of America. The association recently released its “Spring Allergy Capitals” ranking. And Austin (for once) is pretty far down the list, finishing 58th, between New Haven, Conn. and Scranton, Pa.

The spring allergy capital, according to the association, Jackson, Miss., with Memphis just behind. Opinions may differ about whether San Antonio is winning the taco war against Austin — the mayors have declared a cease-fire but hostilities are still simmering — but allergy association list suggests the Alamo City is winning the allergy rankings, finishing 21st.

Most lists rank cities’ allergy problems for spring or fall. But eossinus.com takes Austin’s cedar season into account and consistently places Austin in the top 10. Because cedar season sucks.