When it comes to allergies, it’s easy to blame spring hay fever on everything from your job to your son’s spring Little League schedule. After all, jobs and activities that expose you to ragweed, grass and tree pollen naturally trigger unpleasant allergy symptoms, like sneezing and head congestion. But what if your city was to blame, too? The Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America is warning allergy sufferers that a city’s location may play a major part in determining the severity of seasonal allergies.
The Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America recently released the 2012 “Worst Cities for Spring Allergies”. We’ve listed the top offenders below. For the full list of the 100 “Worst Cities for Spring Allergies”, check out allergycapitals.com.
Top 10 Worst Cities for Spring Allergies
Oklahoma City, Oklahoma
San Antonio, Texas
Geography and Location Affect Seasonal Allergies
The Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America used several factors to determine this year’s rankings. These factors include historic pollen counts, metropolitan geography, and city location, as well as the ratio of board-certified allergy specialists to residents.
For the third year in a row, Knoxville topped the list of “Worst Cities for Spring Allergies”. Knoxville’s location in the Tennessee Valley between the Great Smokey Mountains and the Cumberland Plateau causes pollen to hang over the city. Thanks to frequent rainfall, a temperate climate and a diversity of pollen-causing plant life, Knoxville residents spend much of the year sneezing and sniffling their way through allergies.
So, how can you tell if your city is making your allergies worse? If you don’t live in a major metropolis, your city may not appear on the “Top 100” list. However, you can still determine if your location is adversely affecting your allergies. Start by asking the following questions:
Is your city near a river basin? River basins, such as the Ohio River Valley or the Mississippi river basin, increase local humidity levels. Unfortunately, high humidity helps pollen thrive, which both worsens and prolongs the city’s allergy season.
Is your city along the coast? Good news! While humidity can be higher along the coast (especially in the Southeastern coastlines), fresh ocean breezes help clear the air. The exception to this rule: densely populated coastal cities. In these cities, the dense urban metropolis negates the benefits of a refreshing coastal breeze.
Do you live in the Midwest? Midwestern states are known for their high ragweed pollen counts, which are worsening thanks to global warming. Scientists believe that climate change is extending the ragweed-growing season. This means that ragweed, tree pollen and grass pollen seasons now overlap, running from early March to November. Unfortunately for Midwesterners, this also means there’s little relief from allergies.
Do you live in the South? A temperate climate, high summer humidity, generous rainfall and a long growing season means that that many Southerners suffer from some serious allergies. In fact, thanks to climate change, grass allergies are becoming a year-round problem. Knoxville, Louisville, Jackson, Chattanooga and Memphis all made the “Top 10” list. Yikes!
So, should you pick up and move to a desert climate to escape your allergies? While a dryer climate may help some people, think twice before packing up the moving truck. Allergy specialists caution that changing climates does not mean that you’ll escape your allergies. In fact, grass and ragweed pollen can be found across the United States, including in the Southwest. You may find that moving cities only causes you to trade one allergy for another. However, if you live in a "seasonal allergy hot zone", moving to a drier climate may help.
Love where you live? There’s no need to move – just keep an eye on local pollen counts and the weather forecast. Limit your exposure to pollen by staying inside between 10:00am and 4:00pm when pollen counts are usually the highest. This is especially true on hot, dry or windy days. High humidity also exacerbates allergies, causing pollen to “hang” in the air. Spend time outside early in the day or in the evening before sunset.
So what’s the best time to be outside? Plan to enjoy the great outdoors the day following a heavy downpour. Rain helps to wash pollen out of the air. While chilly or damp days are not exactly outdoor-friendly, you will breath easier on these cooler days.