Valley fever season begins June 1 and lasts through the end of November. Understanding the symptoms is important during this time of year because Valley fever has many of the same signs as the cold or flu. Having treated patients with valley fever as a Naturopathic Doctor in Scottsdale here is what you should be on the lookout for if you believe you were exposed.

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What is Valley Fever? 

Valley fever (also known as coccidiomycosis) is a respiratory infection caused by a fungus known as coccidioides. This fungus lives in the soil and can be inhaled through dust specks. It is present in specific areas of the United States including Arizona, New Mexico, Nevada, West Texas, Southern California, Utah, and Washington. It is also found in parts of Mexico and South America. Symptoms of valley fever can last weeks to months and include: 

  • Cough 
  • Fever 
  • Chest pain 
  • Fatigue
  • Joint pain 
  • Rash

Many people who are exposed to valley fever can recover without extensive treatment, and many do not know that they were exposed at all. However, there are people with an increased risk for developing serious complications from the infection. People with compromised immune function, including people undergoing cancer treatment, have HIV, diabetic patients, and those who are taking long-term corticosteroids may have a harder time fighting off the infection, requiring more treatment. 

How to reduce exposure

It can be very challenging to reduce exposure to this fungus when living in a place where the fungus is common in the environment. However, if you are at-risk for serious complications of infection, the CDC recommends avoiding areas that are significantly dusty (such as construction or renovation sites), stay inside with the windows closed during dust storms, avoid activities like gardening or yard work where you are coming into direct contact with soil, keeping skin injuries clean with soap and water to reduce skin infection risk, and utilizing indoor air purification systems. 

When to see a doctor 

If you have symptoms of valley fever and live in an area where coccidioides are present, it is best to see a doctor to determine the best course of treatment. Doctors will often order testing to confirm the infection and monitor you in the event you cannot clear the infection on your own. Depending on your personal risk factors or the course of your infection, they may recommend antifungal medication to help you clear the infection.

Valley fever can cause major health issues if left untreated. If you believe you were exposed to valley fever or lizzare showing any symptoms speak to your personal physician.

Author: Dr. Molly Santosuosso is a Naturopathic Medical Doctor at Natural Kid Doc in Scottsdale, Arizona. Santosuosso, specializes in hormone health, treating conditions including PCOS, endometriosis, preconception, fertility care, thyroid disease, and general health concerns..