When it comes to choosing where we are going to live, we usually consider where we will work, where our children will attend school, what is available to do and see in the area, and if the climate suits our preferences. Rarely do we consider whether it’s a place that can wreak havoc on our allergies. It’s usually not until you’ve lived in an area for a while that you realize your respiratory system and the place you call home doesn’t always get along.
What Cities Are The Worst For Allergies?
So, where are the worst cities for seasonal allergies? We’ve compiled a list taking into account allergy issues and information for those cities over the past five years. These are places in the United States where pollen counts are higher than normal every year resulting in more than just spring allergies. Because of climate change, blooming seasons, and population growth, all of the cities on our list are expected to increase in the number of allergy sufferers each year.
1. McAllen, Texas
McAllen is a growing city situated in the southern part of Texas on the Mexican border near the Gulf of Mexico. It has a nice, warm climate that allows for a longer growing season. McAllen receives below average amounts of rainfall – so there isn’t enough to wash away all the pollen. Add that to the fact there are rarely any hard freezes of note in Texas, so the plants pollinate all year long. All of this combines to make McAllen our worst city in the United States for allergies.
Unlike many cities, allergy season really doesn’t end in McAllen. Tree and grass cause big problems in the spring and summer. In the fall, it’s ragweed. Research shows an increase in ragweed pollen in Texas over the past 25 years, which certainly doesn’t help. What’s more, the mold count has more than tripled over the past 15 years and it continues to hold at an increased level in the area.
If those parts of the year aren’t bad enough – winter is the worst. Residents in McAllen end up suffering from cedar fever caused by cedar trees. The symptoms can be so bad, some people think they have the flu.
It’s estimated that as much as 80 percent of the population of McAllen deals with allergies at some point during the year. It’s a growing city and the influx of residents new to Texas, and McAllen in particular, means there are people who may have not been exposed to the pollens that fly around in the air there creating new allergy cases. And with climate change, experts say the warmer blooming periods will become longer – causing more people to suffer with allergies in the future.
2. Oklahoma City, OK
Oklahoma City is situated right in the middle of the state and is the largest city in Oklahoma. Our number two worst city for allergies does experience cold weather, but it doesn’t last long and it’s relatively mild. For that reason, trees begin to pollinate early and become active as early as February. The area is known for its dry, windy weather and because of its flat terrain, the post-winter wind from the south can send allergen triggers through the city from as far away as Texas.
Trees – mainly oak, mulberry and hackberry – that bloom in the spring and create a lot of pollen cause the biggest issues for Oklahoma City residents. As the weather warms up, grass brings on the sniffling and sneezing. As many as 75 percent of the residents in Oklahoma City deal with some sort of seasonal allergy.
3. Memphis, TN
Memphis is situated in the southwestern corner of Tennessee along the Mississippi River and experiences mild winters and hot, muggy summers. The climate allows for a longer spring season and an extended, more intense allergy season. There are close to 40 different tree pollens that enter the air during the spring in Memphis. And just as tree pollen begins to die down – grass pollen kicks in with ragweed quickly following. Mold is also a concern because Memphis receives an above average amount of rainfall.
March and October are the peak months for our third worst city for allergies. Between 70 and 75 percent of residents of Memphis suffer from allergies at some point during the year.
4. Jackson, MS
Jackson, Mississippi sits along the Pearl River in the western-central part of the state and claims the fourth spot on our list. Winter is short, cold and wet while summertime is hot, long and oppressive. Jackson is rich in foliage and mature trees like oak. The bloom season starts early and those trees begin to pollinate with grass and weeds not far behind. The pollen count is well above average and stays high for the spring and the hot, humid summer when the air feels thick and creates an environment where allergens just hang above you. And just as the temperatures are starting to let up – ragweed shows up.
Jackson typically receives an above average amount of rainfall which contributes greatly to mold allergies. Around 70 percent of Jackson residents have seasonal allergy issues.
5. Louisville, KY
Louisville, Kentucky sits along the Ohio River in northern Kentucky and claims the fifth spot on our list. The winters are short and mild while summer is hot and muggy. The Bluegrass State, as you might expect, has an abundance of bluegrass – which creates more pollen than any other type of grass. The city’s humidity, warm air and above average rainfall are perfect for the rapid growth of trees and the spread of tree pollen. The rainfall also makes Louisville a haven for mold and the allergies that come with it. Between 65 and 70 percent of the people who call Louisville home have some sort of seasonal allergy problem.
6. Providence, RI
Providence, Rhode Island sits at the mouth of the Providence River and its climate is classified as warm and temperate. Our number six city has a shorter, but incredibly intense tree pollen season that lasts from March to May. Ragweed is usually associated with fall, but in Providence ragweed pollen starts releasing into the air in August. The days are still warm, but the nights began to cool down creating the perfect environment for ragweed to flourish. The problem will last well through October, just in time for mold spores to become an issue. The city’s above average rainfall also contributes to mold allergy problems.
Providence also has a less than average amount of board-certified allergists, making it hard for everyone who needs treatment to receive it. Up to 60 percent of residents in Providence deal with seasonal allergies.
7. Richmond, VA
Coming in at number seven is Richmond, Virginia which is situated in the eastern-central part of the state at the head of the James River. Its winters are really cold but short, and when it gets warm in early spring it stays warm until well into the fall.
Growing and blooming season in Richmond begins in late February with tree pollen. The dry winds that come with spring spread them easily and quickly. Grass pollen allergies are a problem in the summer, but in Richmond it extends well into September and doesn’t truly end until ragweed pollen starts floating in the air. Combine all of those issues with the above average rainfall which creates an environment ripe for mold allergies. The results mean around 60 percent of Richmond residents deal with the sniffing and sneezing that comes with allergies.
8. Scranton, PA
In northeastern Pennsylvania in the Lackawanna River Valley, you’ll find the city of Scranton and our number eight city. It has really cold winters and mild summers. The spring and summer bring average issues with tree pollen. But the most intense portion of allergy season for Scranton residents is August and September when ragweed pollen fills the air. What’s more, rainfall totals in Scranton are generally above average which causes mold to be a big issue for allergy sufferers. At least half of the residents of Scranton fight allergies every year.
There is research that shows the warming of our planet is contributing to allergy issues across the country. It makes the winters milder and the blooming season longer. The average temperature for Scranton has actually risen by 2.5 degrees since 1970. And while that may not seem like a lot – it can make a huge difference for the plants and trees that take their cues from nature.
9. Dayton, OH
Dayton sits in the southwestern part of Ohio in the Miami Valley region and at number nine on our list. The winters are cold and windy and the summers are long, warm and humid. Since the winters are so cold, plants end up blooming at the same time as the trees creating a high amount of pollen in the air during the springtime.
Dayton does get a small reprieve in July, only to be hit with a longer than normal ragweed season which runs from August to November. And rainfall totals for the year in Dayton are generally above average causing mold to be a big problem for allergy sufferers. At least 50 percent of Dayton residents deal with seasonal allergies.
10. Wichita, KS
Rounding out our top ten list is Wichita, Kansas which sits along the Arkansas River in the south-central part of the state. Wichita winters are cold, dry and windy and the summers are hot and humid. The city has an abundance of elm and maple trees which creates a large majority of the city’s tree pollen problem. And the flat, windy landscape also creates an environment where pollen from other places can end up in Wichita.
Grass pollen remains a problem year-round. Experts say the last winter freeze in Wichita is occurring earlier and earlier every year, which gives plants more time to grow. Slightly less than 50 percent of residents in Wichita have some kind of seasonal allergy issue.
How Do I Know It’s Allergies?
No place is immune from environmental factors that cause allergies. They’re a problem across the United States. Allergies are actually the sixth leading cause of chronic illness – and the most overlooked one – in this country. More than 50 million Americans suffer from some type of allergy every year. During the month of April alone when spring is generally in full swing, half of the country ranks in the medium to high-risk category for allergy issues. But, because of the blooming and growing seasons, some places are just worse than others.
If you deal with allergies, you certainly aren’t alone. It’s estimated that as many as 50 million Americans have some allergy issue every year. Allergy symptoms occur when your immune system determines something is harmful, even though it’s not, and your body creates a reaction to fight it off. Most people who have allergies have problems with them during the spring and fall. But some allergy sufferers have to endure symptoms all year long. Sometimes, it’s hard to know if an allergy flare-up is a problem or something else is going on. That’s why it’s essential to know the most common allergy symptoms:
Itchy, watery, red, or swollen eyes
Runny, stuffy, or itchy nose
Most seasonal allergies can be treated with over-the-counter medications, but sometimes it takes a trip to the doctor to get a prescription to make a difference. For those who have year-round allergy issues, other, more long-term treatments like allergy shots or regular medications have to be taken.
How Can You Alleviate Your Allergies?
There are plenty of over-the-counter medications you can try to alleviate your allergy symptoms. Nasal spray, decongestants, and antihistamines are all useful for seasonal allergies. But besides medications, there are other things you can try to lessen the severity of spring or fall allergy season.
Track the Pollen Count. You can download plenty of apps on your smartphone to track the pollen count in your area. Your local TV stations generally provide the information as well. Tracking the pollen count will help you know if it’s too high and whether it’s a good idea to spend much time outdoors.
Keep Windows Closed. If you discover the pollen count will be high on any particular day, be sure and keep the windows to your home closed. This will keep pollen from drifting in and creating even more problems for you or your loved ones.
Wear a Mask. If you’re going to be outside working in the yard or cutting the lawn, wear an N-95 mask and sunglasses to keep from inhaling as little pollen as possible.
Change Your Clothes. Don’t wear your shoes inside the house – it will just help track pollen and other allergy triggers. And when you’re finished outside and come in for the day, change your clothes and promptly wash them.
Rinse Off. Jump in the shower, wash your hair to get any particles off you before you sit on your furniture, or lie in your bed. You may also want to consider using a nasal rinse to flush out any pollen you may have inhaled.
Invest in an Air Purifier. Air purifiers can help relieve allergy symptoms. The machines have filters that pull in and trap airborne irritants, and then clean air is released back into your home. The best air purifiers for allergies use a HEPA filter. These high-efficiency filters can trap nearly all the particles floating around in the air, even the tiniest ones that you can’t see with the naked eye. So, an air purifier that runs in your home regularly can rid the air of things that commonly trigger allergies like pollen, dust, mold, and pet dander.
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