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Strong Cold Fronts Blow In Central Texas’ Infamous Cedar-Fever Allergy Season

During cedar-fever season, every single pollen cone on a juniper tree opens simultaneously, and it looks like the trees are on fire. YouTube image by Rusty Hierholzer.

Hunker down.

Those strong cold fronts common to December and January also blow the pollen off of mountain cedar trees like Central Texas’ Ashe juniper, ushering in Texas’ infamous ‘cedar-fever’ allergy season.

Every single pollen cone on juniper trees opens simultaneously, and it looks like the trees are on fire.

“There’s just so much pollen in the air,” said Robert Edmonson, a biologist with Texas A&M Forest Service. “It absolutely overwhelms the immune system. It’s like trying to breathe in a dust storm.”

Cedar fever leads to serious misery and can be confusing for people new to Central Texas, he said in a press release issued by the Forest Service. The pollination period of mountain cedar trees occurs right in the middle of flu season.

It’s not uncommon for people experiencing cedar fever to mistake their symptoms as a cold or seasonal flu, especially given the variety of symptoms triggered by cedar fever, Edmonson said.

These include fatigue, sore throat, runny nose, watery eyes, blocked nasal passages, sneezing, partial loss of smell — and sometimes a low-grade fever.

Some of these symptoms align with the novel, pandemic-inducing coronavirus.

So … is it COVID, flu, or cedar fever?

Cedar pollen rarely causes fevers greater than 101.5 degrees Fahrenheit, Edmonson said. One dead giveaway is mucus.

“If your mucus is running clear, then it’s an allergy,” he said. “If it’s got color, then it’s probably a cold or the flu.”

While there’s no cure for cedar fever, save allergy medications or antihistamines recommended by physicians, Edmonson suggests following the pollen count and closing windows and doors on bad days. Stay indoors when possible and change air-conditioning filters in cars and homes.

Removing cedar trees isn’t recommended because pollen is airborne and can blow for miles. Only “male” juniper trees release pollen.

“The male trees have pollen cones,” said Jonathan Motsinger, Central Texas Operations Department Head for Texas A&M Forest Service. “And the female trees have berry-like cones, which are very inconspicuous, but that’s what’s pollinated from the male trees.”

Junipers have an upside. Immense health benefits include medicines and oils that treat a variety of ailments, including upset stomach and snake bites. They’re also high in nutrition and vitamins, providing a sustainable source of food for wildlife and soil enrichment. They grow in a terrain that isn’t particularly hospitable to other species.

According to Texas A&M Forest Service, “they provide the mental, physical and environmental health benefits of trees and forests everywhere.”

For more information about how to identify Ashe junipers and/or eastern red cedars, click here.


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