In most parts of the United States, the start of winter is a calming time for people with pollen allergies. In parts of the Southwest, however, it’s when people with a mountain cedar allergy can develop bothersome nasal and eye allergy symptoms.
Most trees release their pollen in spring and fall. But in Central Texas, Oklahoma, Missouri, Arizona and New Mexico, the Ashe Juniper tree – commonly referred to as mountain cedar – releases its cedar pollen. The phenomenon, nicknamed “cedar fever,” also affects parts of Mexico and Japan. Cedar fever season lasts from December 15 to February 15.
The release of cedar pollen during mountain cedar season is intense in Central Texas. Residents often describe a visible yellow and orange cloud of pollen hovering around the Ashe Juniper tree.
What are the symptoms of cedar fever?
Cedar fever symptoms are similar to those of hay fever:
- itchy and watery eyes
- runny nose.
“The symptoms start very suddenly and significantly so that it seems almost flu-like,” says Edward Peters, MD, of Allergy & Asthma Consultants in Austin. However, while most flu infections are accompanied by a substantial fever, cedar fever is not.
How is Cedar Fever Treated?
Treatments for cedar fever are based on the severity of a patient’s symptoms. Treatments include:
- regular saline nasal rinsing
- twice daily application of topical nasal corticosteroids
- sometimes montelukast, a leukotriene modifier approved for asthma and allergic rhinitis.
“Traditional immunotherapy also works really well for many patients,” Dr. Peters adds.
If you experience cedar fever, or if symptoms linger or worsen, schedule an appointment with a board-certified allergist to discuss treatment options and lifestyle changes.
How can I reduce symptoms of cedar fever?
Keeping cedar pollen from getting inside your home is key. Some tried-and-true tips:
• Keep windows and doors closed.
• Take off your shoes before entering your home to avoid tracking pollen on floors.
• Install a HEPA (high efficiency particulate air) filter, especially in bedrooms.
• Vacuum often.
Change clothes after being outside and take a bath or shower before bed to wash pollen off skin and hair.
As with any seasonal allergy, people with both asthma and cedar allergies should follow their Asthma Action Plan, monitor symptoms closely, take quick-relief medication if necessary, and seek medical attention if they experience difficulty breathing or other symptoms of distress.
An earlier version of this post was written by Kimberly Pellicore, mother of two children, one of whom has severe food allergies and asthma. She is a freelance writer in Kingwood, Texas, and author of the blog thefoodallergymom.org.
Eileen Censullo, RRT, is a respiratory therapist. She currently serves as Director of Network Relations for the American Heart Association. She was on the executive board of the Pennsylvania Society for Respiratory Care from 1995 to 2015. She has also served as Respiratory Care Manager at Taylor Hospital in Ridley Park, Pennsylvania.