Many people blame acacia for their allergies, but a study has found that the pollen-laden tree is a relatively innocent victim with a bad reputation.

Less than seven per cent of patients with severe asthma have been found to be allergic to the bright yellow flowers of the acacia tree.

The major flora culprit is Parietaria Judaica - known in Maltese as Xeħt ir-Riħ. Almost a quarter of the 75 asthma patients tested were allergic to it.

And nettle might be good for soothing chilblains, but the prickly plant is the cause of many coughs and sneezes - 20 per cent of the patients were found to be allergic to it through a blood test.

Even innocuous-looking olive trees are allergy-inducing for 11 per cent of patients.

The study, unveiled yesterday morning during a respiratory conference organised by the Medical Association of Malta, found that three-quarters of asthma patients suffer from some form of allergy.

But plants are not the only culprits. Half of asthma patients were found to be allergic to the house dust mite, a microscopic species that feeds on flakes of shed human skin.

And while cats might be considered part of the family, they cause considerable anguish in the form of coughs and sneezes. Almost 40 per cent of patients were found to be allergic to felines.

Cockroaches are unwanted guests in many homes, made even more unwelcome by the fact that they cause allergies to 15 per cent of people. Between 10 and 15 per cent of Maltese suffer from asthma, with up to 1.2 per cent suffering from severe asthma, which is more common in women.

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