When it comes to seasonal allergies, Tulsa often gets a bad rap. In 2019, the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America’s annual Spring Allergy Capitals Report ranked Tulsa 53rd among the most challenging places to live.
Though it’s an improvement over previous years, it might not be much consolation to those sneezing and enduring swollen nasal passages and itchy eyes.
What causes these miserable symptoms can vary. Dr. Jeremy Foon of Eastern Oklahoma Ear, Nose and Throat says some of the most common, severe seasonal allergens in Tulsa include weeds (ragweed, sagebrush, amaranth), trees (cedar, ash, maple, oak) and grasses (bermuda, Johnson, Timothy).
Although perennial allergies — such as dust mite or dog and cat allergens — last year-round, seasonal allergies also can linger. “In regard to seasonal allergies, there is some overlap between seasons,” Foon says. “However, the typical pollen breakdown is that tree is worst in spring, grass in summer and weed in fall.”
Reactions are highly dependent on the person and his or her specific allergies, but weather also is a factor depending on the season, temperature, wind and humidity.
“For example, someone with a severe dust mite allergy may find that cold weather is the worst for their allergies because it tends to force them inside the house where dust mites are more concentrated,” Foon says.
Another major factor compounding the allergic response is air pollution.
“There is strong evidence that individuals in heavily polluted areas have worsened allergies and associated symptoms, including asthma and atopic dermatitis (eczema),” Foon says.
“There are various mechanisms that cause this, but one of the more straightforward ones is that pollution causes airway inflammation and increased sensitivity to allergens. This not only increases the number and types of allergies, but the severity, as well.”
Dr. Lodie G. Naimeh of Allergy Clinic of Tulsa agrees and explains polluted air contains a high concentration of hydrocarbons and exhaust particles, along with other chemicals, which can worsen asthma and upper airway disease.
“Studies have shown people who live closer to the highways are at higher risk of airway disease than the people who live in cleaner environments,” she says. “High ozone, smog and smoke are major causes of asthma exacerbations in patients.”