If you’re a Tulsa resident, recent or seasoned, you are no stranger to its year-round welcoming committee: allergens. In 2020, Tulsa ranked No. 23 (of 100) on the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America’s list of “most challenging places to live with allergies.” And the spring and summer months bring with them a variety of eye-watering nuisances. 

Dr. Brandon Humble, a board-certified physician in internal medicine, allergy and immunology at the Allergy Clinic of Tulsa, says tree pollen and grasses tend to be the dominant allergens people battle during these seasons. 

Pollens from maple, elm, ash and oak trees are the likely culprits clogging your sinuses during the spring, while Bermuda, Johnson and Timothy grasses are the most prevalent airborne antigens in the summer months. And the unfortunate news is “pollen of any type blows for miles,” Humble says. “Tulsa has plenty of hard-blowing wind, but it also lies at this place between the western grasslands and the more wooded eastern and southeastern parts of the state.” 

The trifecta of high pollen counts, strong winds and Tulsa’s geography wreaks havoc on airways and nasal passages. Itchy, watery eyes, a runny or congested nose and clogged sinuses are a few ways the body responds to these foreign substances. For those with a reactive airway (think asthma), these immune triggers might worsen an already constricted airway and can sometimes cause anaphylaxis. 

Humble says when these reactions occur, the immune system is simply trying to do its job. “It incorrectly perceives pollen as a threat and tries to fight it off (in areas where pollen comes into contact),” he explains.

Whether the effects are mild or harsh, relief for seasonal allergies is available to Tulsans in a variety of forms, including over-the-counter medications,  (getting tested and avoiding/reducing exposure), aeroallergen immunotherapy (allergy shots, which rewire the immune system and minimize the body’s response) and a lesser-known homeopathic alternative (dry-salt therapy). 

Melissa Vanderipe, owner of Salt Earth Therapy, offers this noninvasive, natural remedy for allergies and says it’s quite effective. “It works similarly to the way a sinus rinse or a neti-pot would but without the water or the burning sensation,” Vanderipe says.

At Salt Earth, treatment involves sitting in a room for 45 minutes while a machine releases aerosol particles of medical-grade sodium chloride into the air. One session is the equivalent to sitting on the beach for three days, according to the Salt Therapy Association, as it cleans out the sinuses, lungs and every part of your respiratory system. The beauty of this option is that it’s safe, painless and can be used in addition to other remedies. 

Although there’s no “cure all” for allergies, there is a range of helpful treatments available to Tulsans that can make life bearable again. Humble says some patients may require one or two methods of treatment to control reactions, but “your allergist is the best person to speak to about which options are best for you.”

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