Cedar allergies soar in Central Texas causing COVID confusion

WACO, Texas (KWTX) – Many sick Central Texans are asking themselves: do I have allergies, COVID-19, or both?

Late last week, cedar pollen went through the roof, leaving local doctors offices slammed.

“The cedar pollen was bad, we were extremely busy, still we are busy,” said Dr. N.J. Amar with Waco’s Allergy Asthma Center.

According to Amar, the allergy-COVID combo is making people confused and, for those who have both, miserable.

“When (they have allergies and) they get an infection, they get sicker,” said Amar.

Amar has been an allergist in Waco for 40 years.

He says a normal day for cedar is 1,000-3,000 grams per cubic meter.

However, on Thursday in Central Texas, Cedar was at 7,000.

“Anything above 2,500 is a high number, 7,000 is huge,” said Amar. “With the COVID going, with the allergies, it gets confusing, but we are seeing a lot of allergy patients, a lot of Asthma patients.”

Although it’s confusing, he says there are some clear differences between COVID-19–and even the Omicron variant–and allergies.

“There’s lots of overlap, but if somebody has fever, if someone has loss of taste or smell, somebody has stomach problems, somebody is extremely tired, that’s more COVID, and they can’t get tested because it’s two-to-three hours waiting time now, that’s making it harder, also with Omicron people seem to have the night sweats, there are some GI stomach problems, diarrhea, extreme weakness, sometimes we see flu also.” said Amar. “But allergies are more sneezing, runny nose, itchy watery eyes, sometimes dark circles under the eyes.”

Even with the differences, he says it can still be hard to differentiate between the two.

“It’s difficult, last week in fact two persons came in thinking they were allergies: when we did the (COVID-19) test…they were positive,” said Amar.

AAC is screening patients ahead of time, no one with COVID-19 is allowed inside, plus they’re wearing masks and offering virtual visits.

Still, he says some of his staff got sick last week from handling COVID-19 patients who thought they had allergies.

His advice to avoid getting sick from COVID-19: get vaccinated, and mask up.

Wearing a mask might help with allergies, too, he says, especially if you’re working outside.

He also recommends washing your clothes and pets to reduce allergens.

“You can take allergy medicine, Zyrtec and Flonase over the counter, if those don’t help you can get a steroid shot,” said Amar.

The cedar count Monday was around 1,000, however, it doesn’t mean Central Texas is ‘out of the woods’.

Amar says cedar will remain high for about the next six weeks.

“We are at the peak right now,” said Amar. “Even in the mid-winter like now we have allergies, we don’t get a break.”

Written by Rissa Shaw

Categories: Health

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