Fall allergies to blame for many Oklahomans' sniffles and sneezes

This month, the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America ranked Oklahoma City and Tulsa fifth and 10th, respectively, on its list of the worst cities for fall allergies.
FROM STAFF REPORTS Published: November 8, 2011
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With cooler temperatures come runny noses, watery eyes and sniffling. But not all of it is because of colds and viruses.

“We may think of autumn as prime time for colds and flu, but it's also allergy season for many Oklahomans,” said Oklahoma Medical Research Foundation President Dr. Stephen Prescott.

Ragweed is especially plentiful in this region of the country, and its pollen can trigger allergic reactions until the first freeze.

This month, Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America ranked Oklahoma City and Tulsa fifth and 10th, respectively, on its list of the worst cities for fall allergies.

But while you might blame ragweed or pollen for your stuffy nose and sneezing, Prescott said there's another culprit as well — the immune system.

“Allergies occur when the immune system overreacts to substances that most people's bodies perceive as harmless,” he said.

The immune system is primed to fight off invaders that can make you sick. But sometimes it gets confused. For those with allergies, the confusion begins when the body senses a substance such as pollen or dust and thinks it's found a dangerous intruder.

“It's the difference between coming home and finding a stranger with a gun in your house or finding a stray cat inside,” said OMRF immunologist Dr. Hal Scofield.

“Neither are welcome guests, but we react to the situation differently.”

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