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Is it cedar fever or COVID-19? Explaining allergy vs. COVID-19 symptoms

Cedar allergies are officially raging in Central Texas, and oftentimes cedar fever can make you feel sick.

AUSTIN, Texas — It's that time of year: Cedar allergies are soaring, which means many in Austin and Central Texas are suffering from cedar fever.

The allergen surfaces in the winter, which often leads allergy sufferers dealing with cedar fever to wonder if they are actually sick. And this year, the cedar count is rising as COVID-19 continues to spread.

KVUE spoke with Dr. Ryan McCorkle, emergency medicine physician at St. David's Medical Center, to decipher cedar fever symptoms from coronavirus. Here's an explainer.

"People with cedar fever, what we call seasonal allergies, have more symptoms of itchy, watery eyes, sneezing," McCorkle said. "The people who present the COVID-19 symptoms have more of the high fevers, chills, body aches, the loss of taste and smell and GI symptoms: nausea, vomiting, diarrhea."

He said those are the extreme symptoms of allergies and COVID-19. 

Unfortunately, he said that beyond that, there's a lot of overlap. People with cedar fever or COVID-19 can suffer from symptoms including cough, fatigue, headaches, sore throat, congestion and a runny nose. When you have those "overlapping symptoms," that's when you're asked to get tested for COVID-19 to determine if you have coronavirus or if you're just suffering from allergies.

"Locally, when we see cedar fever, some people can get a low-grade temperature when they react to the seasonal allergens in the air," he said.

WATCH: Cedar Fever vs. COVID-19: Know the symptoms

With COVID-19, cedar fever and the flu upon us, McCorkle gave some tips for how to keep yourself well. His first tip is to wear a mask.

"Wearing your mask works for all three of those. It obviously works for COVID-19. It works for helping stop the spread of flu, influenza A and B, and it also helps with seasonal allergies with those large particles of pollen and cedar that trigger those allergies," he said.

For allergies, McCorkle suggests you take over-the-counter allergy medications to start your day, use a neti pot, get HEPA filters or MERV 13 filters for your home, and limit how much time you spend outdoors when the allergy counts are high.

Flu shots are essential in protecting yourself from the flu.

KVUE's weather team collects samples daily outside of the KVUE studios in order to obtain an accurate count for allergens in the area. Samples are reported in grains per cubic meter of air. A day consisting of medium cedar traces would range anywhere from 100 to 500 grains per cubic meter.  

On Saturday, Dec. 26, the cedar count soared to a high count of 3,044 grains per cubic meter. By Monday, Dec. 28, the cedar count was still high with 679 grains per cubic meter.

Be sure to check the allergy forecast daily at kvue.com/allergy. And be sure to download KVUE's app in order to check on the weather: kvue.com/app.

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