Austin Braces for Intense Cedar Fever Season Amid El Niño Conditions

Austin Braces for Intense Cedar Fever Season Amid El Niño ConditionsSource: Ddal at the English-language Wikipedia, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons
Ryan Anderson
Published on December 08, 2023

Austin residents, get your tissues ready—cedar fever season is once again descending upon Central Texas, and it's shaping up to be a doozy. As temperatures cool down, pollen from the male Ashe juniper trees is set to send allergy sufferers into a sneezing frenzy, according to a report by the Austin American-Statesman. If past years are anything to go by, the region is about to face a pollen onslaught, with counts that can easily surpass the 10,000 mark—far more intense than what's seen with oak allergies.

Dr. Haley Overstreet of Aspire Allergy & Sinus warned that cedar fever, which doesn't typically include an actual fever, can be deceitful with its overlap in symptoms shared with common viruses, including COVID-19 and RSV. "Both allergies, colds, and COVID-19 can have nasal congestion, runny nose, lack of smell and taste, and sore throat. Sneezing has been a challenge, Overstreet said because initially everyone thought sneezing wouldn't be part of COVID-19, but she has tested patients with severe sneezing, and they tested positive for COVID-19," the Austin American-Statesman reported.

This year's conditions may be exacerbated by the El Niño weather pattern, which promises a wet winter with fewer freezes to curb the pollen spread. However, if it's any consolation, rain could play a role in keeping the pollen at bay. Without the anticipated freezes, Austin may see persistent pollen counts that rival last year's peak of over 20,000, as these juniper trees are typically fueled by cold, dry winds to unleash their pollen.

Local allergists like Dr. Scott Oberhoff from Austin Diagnostic Clinic advise Austin locals to gear up early for cedar season. He suggests taking allergy medications well in advance, recommending a head start by Thanksgiving to preempt the symptoms. "Oftentimes, your symptoms will be much better controlled than if you wait until symptoms start to be problematic," he said because if you wait "you're trying to play catch up and, oftentimes, it cannot be as effective as if you had started before the season," KVUE reports.

Combat strategies against cedar fever include the diligent use of nasal sprays or antihistamines, watching pollen counts to plan outdoor activities, and adopting daily routines like nasal rinsing and showering after being outside. Last, but not least, keeping windows closed and replacing air filters can help keep those unwelcome pollen particles out of homes. Even with precautions, however, some individuals may inevitably have to grapple with cedar fever symptoms, and those particularly affected may look toward treatments like allergy shots to build resistance for the following season.