Springtime tree pollen can be brutal for Oklahoma allergy sufferers

Mulberry, pecan, elm and cedar are among the worst offenders when it comes to producing tree pollen that make Oklahomans with allergies miserable.
by Matt Patterson Published: April 9, 2012
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Joan West has a way of describing springtime in Oklahoma City.

“I love living here, but spring is the only time I think I'd rather live in a desert,” West said.

West, 56, suffers from seasonal allergies, but springtime is the worst as trees pollinate. There are days she can barely go outside, much less get in her twice-weekly walk around Lake Hefner.

“My eyes usually start watering in March and then the sneezing starts and the drainage in the back of my throat,” she said. “I usually have to put up with it through May.”

West is living in a bad place for allergy sufferers.

According to the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America, Oklahoma City is ranked No. 6 nationally on its Spring Allergy Capitals list. Knoxville, Tenn., was No. 1 for the third consecutive year.

The ranking is based on pollen scores, number of allergy medications used per patient and the number of board certified allergists per patient.

Oklahoma has an abundant supply of trees that produce high amounts of windblown pollen. Some of the worst include elm, oak, mesquite, cedar and mulberry trees. All are highly active this time of year.

“Cedar causes significant problems,” said Greg Metz, an allergist at the Oklahoma Allergy and Asthma Clinic. “But all of it depends on weather patterns and rain and other factors. And a lot of it comes down to what the patient is sensitive to.”

Pollination

When trees pollinate longer it can prolong the suffering, but there are misconceptions about which trees cause the worst problems. For example, West said she doesn't like Bradford pear trees because she believes they aggravate her allergies when they begin to bloom in March, but that's not necessarily the case.

University of Tulsa biology professor Estelle Levetin said trees that are pollinated by insects are not a significant cause of allergies. It's the wind pollinated trees that cause the most problems.


by Matt Patterson
Reporter
Matt Patterson has been with The Oklahoman since 2006. Prior to joining the news staff in 2010, Patterson worked in The Oklahoman's sports department for five years. He previously worked at The Lawton Constitution and The Edmond Sun....
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I love living here, but spring is the only time I think I'd rather live in a desert.”

Joan West

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