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Take Your Allergy Meds Before Visiting These Cities

Allergies on the rise

Pollen counts will be rising each year. In fact, the American College of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology (ACAAI) reported that pollen counts are expected to more than double by 2040. This will end up affecting as many as 30 percent of adults and 40 percent of children in the United States.

To help those who are allergy-prone get a head start on treating on their symptoms, the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America (AAFA) releases a Spring Allergy Capitals report each year.

Researchers ranked cities based on:

  • pollen scores, or the average recorded pollen and mold spore levels
  • number of allergy medications used per person with allergies
  • the number of board-certified allergists per 10,000 people with allergies

All these factors are reflected in each city’s total score. The average total score for most cities was 62.53, with 100 being the highest and 38.57 the lowest. Knowing which cities will trigger your allergies can help with planning vacations and trips and preventing allergy issues.

Did your hometown make the list? Read on to find out.

Jackson, Mississippi

mississippi

Ranked first last year, Jackson holds the top spot once again. The city’s high score may be due to its humidity, high pollen count, and rich foliage. In fact, the AAFA ranks Jackson’s pollen count and allergy medicine use as worse than average. But on the flip side, the city is one of the few that rank “better than average” for having more than 0.9 certified allergists per 10,000 people with allergies. It seems Jackson is on the road to treating its allergy problem.

Total score: 100

Pollen ranking: Worse than average

Medicine use: Worse than average

Certified allergists available: Better than average

Memphis, Tennessee

tennessee

Up from fourth place, Memphis, with a score of 94.74, is only six points behind Jackson. The change may reflect the general rise of pollen counts. Memphis’s warmer temperatures are perfect for blooming trees and flowers. But that also means pollen counts will rise.

Total score: 94.74

Pollen ranking: Worse than average

Medicine use: Worse than average

Certified allergists available: Average

Syracuse, New York

kentucky

Syracuse, New York, climbed its way up from the 20th spot this year. This may be due to El Nino, which causes a warmer winter. Warmer winters can cause a longer allergy season.

The city has a “worse than average” pollen score, but an average score for number of patients using medication and number of allergists per 10,000 patients.

If you live in Syracuse and experience seasonal allergies each spring, blame it on the pollen. The city’s spring weather of wind and heat increases pollen exposure.

Total score: 87.97

Pollen ranking: Worse than average

Medicine use: Average

Certified allergists available: Average

Louisville, Kentucky

kentucky

Once, Louisville was the capital for allergies, but it’s been steadily moving down the list. One of the reasons for its presence on the list is its abundance of bluegrass. Bluegrass has more pollen than any other type of grass. The city’s also very humid. Warm air and intermittent rain are perfect for rapid tree growth.

Total score: 87.88

Pollen ranking: Average

Medicine use: Worse than average

Certified allergists available: Average

McAllen, Texas

texas

McAllen, Texas, ranked fifth place this year — one spot higher than last year. It’s in an area known as the Rio Grande Valley. McAllen’s citizens are exposed to pollen from:

  • neighborhood plants
  • mesquite and Huisache trees
  • Bermuda and Johnson grasses
  • distant mountain cedar trees

Some people may also be affected by the smoke that drifts over from Mexico.

Total score: 87.31

Pollen ranking: Worse than average

Medicine use: Worse than average

Certified allergists available: Worse than average

Wichita, Kansas

kansas

Up one spot from 2015, Wichita, Kansas, ranks first for Midwestern cities. Most of the pollen there comes from Wichita’s abundant trees, which include elms and maples. A lot of the pollen count also depends on the warm weather. The longer the warm weather, the more time the trees have to make extra pollen. After tree pollen season, there’s grass pollen, which worsens with rain. It’s also possible for the pollen in the air to come from McAllen, Texas, and Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. Both those cities rank high on the allergy list.

Total score: 86.82

Pollen ranking: Worse than average

Medicine use: Average

Certified allergists available: Average

Oklahoma City, Oklahoma

oklahoma

Last year, Oklahoma City rated third. According to their allergy and mold report, Oklahoma City has high concentrations of mold and weeds. Grass pollen ranks moderate while tree pollen ranks low. The most common type of pollen comes from the cedar trees. After winter, the wind blows from the south, bringing in the tree pollen.

Total score: 83.61

Pollen ranking: Worse than average

Medicine use: Worse than average

Certified allergists available: Average

Providence, Rhode Island

rhode island

Providence has the highest pollen count from March to May. This count quickly drops in June, reaching almost zero in July. But researchers suggest that as climate change occurs, Rhode Island will have more and longer periods of pollen count.

Total score: 81.54

Pollen ranking: Average

Medicine use: Worse than average

Certified allergists available: Worse than average

Knoxville, Tennessee

knoxville, tennessee

Pollen from oak, maple box elder trees, and birch played a role in Knoxville, Tennessee, ranking in the top 10 challenging cities for allergies. Knoxville’s climate of light wind, high humidity, and warm temperatures also make it an ideal place for pollen to thrive. Wind can also get stuck in the valley and spread pollen around instead of carrying it away.

Total score: 81.32

Pollen ranking: Average

Medicine use: Worse than average

Certified allergists available: Average

Buffalo, New York

buffalo new york

By far one of the biggest jumps up the list is Buffalo, in upstate New York. Buffalo moved from 36th to 10th due to its dry and sunny springs. Keep in mind that Syracuse, which ranks third, is fairly close to Buffalo. It makes sense that cities close to one another would rank similarly on the list. However, Buffalo is also close to Niagara Falls. If you’re planning a trip in that direction, don’t forget your allergy medication and tissues.

Total score: 79.31

Pollen ranking: Worse than average

Medicine use: Worse than average

Certified allergists available: Average

Dayton, Ohio

dayton ohio

Down the list from the year before, Dayton, Ohio, has a large number of plants and trees that bloom at the same time. Colder winters can cause plants to bloom later, which can lead to a large amount of pollen in the air.

Total score: 78.69

Pollen ranking: Worse than average

Medicine use: Worse than average

Certified allergists available: Average

Little Rock, Arkansas

arkansas

Little Rock, Arkansas, holds 12th place, a slight improvement from the previous year. Little Rock citizens must cope with the effects of grass pollen from April to June and ragweed in the fall. The warm weather makes a prime situation for pollen to spread, causing symptoms from runny noses to itchy eyes.

Total score: 77.31

Pollen ranking: Average

Medicine use: Worse than average

Certified allergists available: Better than average

Worst cities for allergies in each region

RegionCityNational Rank
MidwestWichita, KS6
NortheastSyracuse, NY3
SouthJackson, MS1
WestTucson, AZ24
 

Keep reading: The best cities in the U.S. for people with asthma »

Treatment for allergies

Fortunately, relief is available for seasonal allergies. If you know you’re prone to allergies, take your medication before your flare-up. Over-the-counter (OTC) medications such as antihistamines and nasal sprays can provide fast, effective relief. It also helps to know your triggers and take steps to keep allergens out of your home.

thumbs up Do
  • remove your shoes and change your clothes when you come home
  • stay indoors on dry, windy days
  • wear a mask if you’re going outside

You can check the pollen count for your city online before you leave the house. Visit the American Academy of Allergy asthma & Immunology’s website for the daily pollen and spore level.

thumbs down Don't
  • hang laundry outside, as pollen can stick to the sheets
  • leave the windows open during dry, windy days
  • go outdoors in the early morning when the pollen count is highest

Natural supplements also may help your body cope. One study found that butterbur worked just as well as a common antihistamine in easing symptoms like itchy eyes. If your symptoms don’t improve with over-the-counter medication, ask your doctor about prescription allergy medications or allergy shots.

Read more: Does honey work for allergies? »

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