2014 Worst Cities for Allergies

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  • Allergies on the Rise—Which City Is Worst?

    Allergies on the Rise—Which City Is Worst?

    According to the UCLA Food and Drug Allergy Care Center, allergies affect as many as one in five Americans. A 2011 survey reported that both asthma and allergies have increased over the past few decades, with more people looking to their doctors for help.

    To help sufferers get a jump on their symptoms, the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America (AAFA) has released its annual Spring Allergy Capitals report. Researchers analyzed cities based on:

    • pollen scores
    • the number of board-certified allergists per 10,000 patients
    • number of allergy medications used per patient

    Read on to find out which cities are most likely to be hit hardest by allergens in the coming seasons, and if your hometown landed on the list.

  • Louisville, Kentucky Tops the List

    Louisville, Kentucky Tops the List

    Louisville, Kentucky unseated last year’s number one city, Jackson, Mississippi, as the “most challenging places to live with allergies.” It was the only city to receive a score of 100, when the national average was 59.92.

    A large part of the problem is the weather. Spring allergies are mostly triggered by tree pollen and mold. Cities like Louisville have warm air and intermittent rain, creating the perfect conditions for rapid tree growth.

  • Memphis, Tennessee

    Memphis, Tennessee

    Coming in less than three points behind Louisville, Memphis promises allergy sufferers a lot of grief this spring too. It’s moved up the list from number eight last year. The change may reflect the general rise scientists are seeing in pollen counts.

    In 2012, the American College of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology (ACAAI) reported on a startling study led by allergist Leonard Bielory. It indicated that pollen counts are expected to more than double by the year 2040.

  • Baton Rouge, Louisiana

    Baton Rouge, Louisiana

    With an overall score of 91.93, Baton Rouge came in third place, climbing from tenth last year. This Louisiana city ranked high in pollen score, medications used, and number of allergists per 10,000 patients. Baton Rouge is home to a number of trees that pollinate in spring, including:

    • red cedar
    • willow
    • bayberry
    • birch
    • oak
    • ash
  • Oklahoma City, Oklahoma

    Oklahoma City, Oklahoma

    Neck and neck with Baton Rouge, Oklahoma City just missed third place by 0.74 points. Last year, Oklahoma rated ninth to Baton Rouge’s 10th. However, the two cities switched places this year, and Baton Rouge pulled ahead.

    Researchers expect pollen counts to continue to increase with each year that passes. The ACAAI report noted that climate change, weather patterns, changes in rain levels, and temperature all work together for an earlier allergy season kickoff in spring, and a longer duration in fall.

  • Jackson, Mississippi

    Jackson, Mississippi

    Ranked number one last year, Jackson fell to fifth this year, with a score of 90.61. Though the city’s pollen count and use of medication are still very high, the number of certified allergists per 10,000 patients was reported to be “better than average.”

    To cope with symptoms, try some of the following tips:

    • Avoid going out on windy days.
    • Wear a dust mask when doing chores outside.
    • Get ahead of your symptoms by taking medications before the suffering starts.

    Use a HEPA filter in your bedroom.

  • Chattanooga, Tennessee

    Chattanooga, Tennessee

    Are we seeing a pattern here? Southerners can expect a hard-hitting allergy season this spring, especially those living in Tennessee. Blame the mild climate that allows allergens to come out early. Chattanooga scored 90.18, coming in just behind Jackson.

    The city had an average pollen score, and was better than average in number of allergists per 10,000 patients. Its worst performance was the number of medications used per patient.

  • Dallas, Texas

    Dallas, Texas

    Texans, watch out and get out your tissues! Dallas climbed all the way from 23rd last year to seventh this year. With a score of 88.82, it ranked worse than average on all three criteria: pollen score, medications used, and allergists per 10,000 patients.

    The culprit here is likely to be those lovely smelling mountain cedar trees. Other pollen contributors include cypress, elm, ash, and poplar. Don’t forget to change your clothes when you get home from work to avoid dragging allergens around the house with you.

  • Richmond, Virginia

    Richmond, Virginia

    With number eight, we finally move north—but only briefly. Richmond moves up from 22nd place last year, ranking worse than average on both pollen score and medications used.

    Common spring allergens in the area include:

    • hackberry
    • juniper
    • pear tree
    • elm
    • hazelnut

    The so-called polar vortex that hit many states this year may have also encouraged early pollination. Rapid changes in temperature and moisture results in a sort of “blending” of seasons, multiplying allergens. 

  • Birmingham, Alabama

    Birmingham, Alabama

    Birmingham ranked number nine, with a score of 87.71. It had an above-average use of allergy medications, with an average pollen score. Residents take precautions: your city has moved up from 14th place last year.

    Overall, if you’re thinking about traveling, spring will be most difficult in the South, Southeast, and Northeast. Because cold weather is expected to stick around a bit longer in the Northeast, allergies may be most difficult about a month later there than in Southern cities.

  • McAllen, Texas

    McAllen, Texas

    McAllen, Texas rounds out the top ten this year, with an overall score of 87.61, just slightly behind Birmingham. It rated worse than average in both pollen count and the number of allergy medications used per patient.

    In an area known as the Rio Grande Valley, McAllen citizens will suffer from pollen from neighborhood plants, as well as from distant mountain cedar trees. Other offenders include mesquite and huisache trees, and Bermuda and Johnson grasses. Some may also be affected by smoke from fires in nearby Mexico.

  • Take Steps to Reduce Triggers

    Take Steps to Reduce Triggers

    Check with your allergy doctor about medications and injections that may help. Remove your shoes and change your clothes when you come home to avoid transferring allergens into the house, and try to avoid going out on high-pollen days.

    Natural supplements also may help your body cope. In a clinical trial of 125 participants, butterbur worked just as well as a common antihistamine in easing symptoms like itchy eyes. Some studies have also found that stinging nettle helped reduce the sneezing and itching that accompanies hay fever.