OKC ranked 6th most challenging city in the U.S. for pollen allergies

The Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America (AAFA) released its annual Allergy Capitals™ report for 2022 on March 2. The report identifies the most challenging cities for spring and fall allergies in the top 100 metropolitan areas in the continental United States. Cities are ranked based on spring and fall pollen scores, over-the-counter medicine use, and availability of board-certified allergists/immunologists. Oklahoma City was ranked sixth most challenging city and Tulsa ranked 21st.

For the second year in a row, Scranton, Pennsylvania, takes the top spot based on its high spring and fall pollen scores and lower-than-average number of allergy/immunology specialists per patient. The top 20 Allergy Capitals™ for 2022 are: 1. Scranton, PA 2. Wichita, KS 3. McAllen, TX 4. Richmond, VA 5. San Antonio, TX 6. Oklahoma City, OK 7. Hartford, CT 8. Buffalo, NY 9. New Haven, CT 10. Albany, NY.

AAFA began identifying annual Allergy Capitals™ in 2003. Since that first report, seasonal allergies have worsened. Climate change has caused the growing seasons to get longer and warmer, leading to higher pollen counts in both spring and fall. The warmer temperatures also get trapped in urban areas, which impacts air pollution. Urban areas are also often designed to have wind-pollinating trees instead of fruiting (or insect-pollinating) trees.

“Climate change is a public health emergency. More than 24 million people in the U.S. have seasonal allergic rhinitis which is most often caused by pollen allergies,” says Kenneth Mendez, CEO and president of AAFA. “If we don’t slow down the warming temperatures, pollen production will only intensify. This means symptoms could worsen as climate change continues to evolve.”

Allergies can also trigger asthma episodes or attacks. Around 60-80 percent of the 25 million people in the U.S. with asthma have allergic asthma.

“We see spikes in emergency room visits that coincide with spikes in pollen seasons,” said Mendez. “Around 3,600 people per year die from asthma, so it is important to address and manage asthma and allergy triggers where you live.”

Black, Hispanic, and Indigenous populations bear the disproportionate burden of air pollution, asthma, allergies, and climate change. This is the result of long history of housing policies in the U.S. that discriminate against these groups. These policies have pushed people of color to live in undesirable neighborhoods with greater environmental and social risks. As a result of systemic racism in U.S. policies, governance, and culture, racial and ethnic minority populations are more vulnerable to the health impacts of climate change.

“AAFA’s Allergy Capitals™ report helps raise awareness of the impact of pollen and climate change on individual and community health,” says Melanie Carver, chief mission officer of AAFA. “While there are steps individuals can take to manage their allergies, we need communities to improve their city planning and take action on health disparities impacting higher risk populations.”

For people who are impacted by pollen allergies, there are options available to prevent or treat allergy symptoms.

A board-certified allergist can diagnose allergies, and determine the specific triggers that cause them, through simple tests. The allergists at Oklahoma Allergy & Asthma Clinic (OAAC) evaluate and manage patients of all ages.  The main clinic is on the Oklahoma Health Center campus.  For patient convenience, satellite offices are in Edmond, Norman, Midwest City and Yukon.