As many Texans already know, winter signals the rise of mountain cedar pollen, which can result in an allergic reaction known as cedar fever and create a host of respiratory problems. Below, Dr. Pranav Mehta, chief medical officer of HCA Healthcare’s American Group and vice president, clinical excellence and medical services, answers our questions about cedar fever and what you can do to manage it.
What is cedar fever?
Cedar fever is basically an allergic reaction from pollen, which comes from a tree that’s commonly known as the mountain cedar. It doesn’t actually give you a fever, it’s more of a reaction that takes place when pollen counts are high, which is generally in the December and January timeframe — that’s when you would see it peak.
So it’s really not a fever, but you would have symptoms like:
- Runny nose
- Itchy and watery eyes
- Constant sneezing
- Your nose might also feel blocked
- You may have a headache or sore throat
How can you tell the difference between cedar fever and flu?
Cedar fever can present as flu, in that you may feel sick and need to miss work or school, but one differentiator between cedar fever and influenza is that cedar fever does not give you a fever. Also, with influenza, the symptoms are a little more severe; you’ll generally see more of a cough, and you may have difficulty breathing, or a high-grade fever.
Prevention and treatment
You can do a lot of preventive things, like taking over-the-counter (OTC) medications such as a decongestant or an antihistamine, both of which help the body control an allergic reaction and reduce the duration of symptoms. You can also use eye drops to get more comfort.
If you have more severe symptoms, like trouble breathing or severe pain in the throat, then you should go to an urgent care center or visit your primary care provider to see if you’re dealing with influenza. And if you’re confused about whether you have an allergy-driven illness or influenza — which can go hand-in-hand — and you experience symptoms like severe headaches, chills and joint pain, you should go get checked out by a healthcare provider.