Is it cedar pollen allergy or a cold?

How to tell if you’re suffering from allergies or an infection

Cedar pollen season hits during the height of cold and flu season in Central Texas, so how do you tell whether you’re suffering from allergies or a cold?

‘Tis the season for cedar

Mountain cedar trees pollinate from December to February in Central Texas, and its pollen seems particularly potent, according to Dr. John Villacis, an allergist at The Austin Diagnostic Clinic.

Cedar stimulates a branch of the immune system to become overactive. The pollen is identified and then causes a series of immune responses including the release of a chemical called histamine. Histamine can cause the nose to make mucus and cause sneezing.

Sufferers deal with symptoms including:

  • Irritated eyes
  • Itchy nose
  • Sneezing
  • Nasal congestion

Some people also have asthma or respiratory problems. Since the symptoms are similar, it’s hard to know the difference between cedar allergies and an infection. However, there are some signs.

John Villacis talks about cedar allergy

Did you have the same symptoms at this time last year?

“If you’re having a lot of itchy eyes, itchy nose, sneezing, and if you had the exact same symptoms last year, and the cedar count is high – it’s probably cedar,” said Dr. Villacis.

Allergies tend to appear seasonally.

Did your symptoms appear all at once or gradually over time?

With a cold, your symptoms can take a few days to appear, and often they appear gradually – first sneezing, then a runny nose, then congestion. Allergy symptoms happen typically much faster.

Have your symptoms lasted more than 2 weeks?

A cold tends to last seven to 10 days. But allergy symptoms will continue as long as you are exposed to an allergen, such as cedar pollen. That can be days to months.

Do you have a fever or aches?

Fever and body aches are not usually associated with allergies. These are symptoms that accompany a cold or flu.

But if you’re still not sure, it never hurts to be seen by your doctor. After all,

“Sometimes it’s a combination of both [allergies and infection], so sometimes we have to treat people for both,” Dr. Villacis said.