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Oklahoma an allergy haven, says expert

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OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) -- Oklahoma's position at America's crossroads makes it one of the more diverse states in the nation.

Its location also makes it one of the painful states to live in for allergy sufferers, said Dr. Warren Filley, an allergist at the Oklahoma Allergy Clinic.

A recent study by the National Allergy Bureau found that Tulsa came in seventh on the list of the most pollen-filled cities in America. Oklahoma City was 11th.

Filley said these footnotes are due to the wide range of plants and trees in the state that can combine to brutalize the allergy-prone.

"Basically we sit at the edge of prairie and woodland," Filley said. "You can have grasses, you can have weeds, you can have trees. And if you look at the cities that sit on the edge of both, they tend to have more pollen."

The statistics tend to prove him right. St. Louis was picked as the worst city for spring allergy sufferers, followed by College Station, Tex. Also in the top five was Kansas City, Mo.

Filley said studies show that between 15 to 25 percent of people suffer from some sort of allergy, but with varying levels of sensitivity.

He said people with less severe cases may be able to live out normal lives in less pollen-prone areas, but can be hit hard by allergies where there is more diverse plant life.

"Here, even the ones without a big problem are gonna be bothered because the (pollen) count is so high," Filley said.

He said the state's vast and varied plant population not only intensifies allergy seasons, but makes them longer.

"We have a wide range of trees that grow here, so even though each tree only pollenates for a few weeks they do it at different times," Filley said.

And then there are the grasses. Bermuda Grass, for example, pollenates as long as it grows, starting in late spring or summer and going until it freezes, Filley said. In places like Minnesota, an early winter may indeed bring an early end to allergy season. But not so in Oklahoma, where it can be late December before grasses call it a year.

Filley said while many people with allergies get by with antihistamines and decongestants, the only way for someone to find out what exactly is causing their allergy is to get tested by doctors. He strongly recommends it -- especially for weary pet owners.

"I've had people put their dog to sleep, thinking they were allergic to it," Filley said. "Well, they get rid of their dog and their allergies didn't stop. Without testing, you don't know what you're allergic to."
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