Each year, as spring rolls around, many seasonal allergy sufferers lament, “Maybe I should just move to Alaska!” Warm weather arrives, the trees bud, the flowers bloom -- and noses burst with sniffles and irritation. Then just as the allergic reactions of April and May have become a memory, fall hits, and it’s ragweed season.
So can you relocate to escape your allergies? Most allergists would say no: Moving is no solution to seasonal allergies. But there are cities that are more “allergy-friendly” than others, according to the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America.
The foundation puts out lists each year for the worst cities for spring allergies, and the worst cities for fall allergies. Each list ranks 100 metropolitan areas. Cities are scored based on a combined ranking of pollen score, number of people who use allergy medication, and number of allergy specialists.
The list doesn't label them "best" or "worst," but does say that some cities are ''the most challenging places to live'' with allergies. On this list, a low ranking is good! Here are the cities that ranked 90 through 100 on the foundation’s spring allergy capital list in 2010:
- Portland, Ore.
- Seattle, Wash.
- San Diego, Calif.
- Sacramento, Calif.
- Albany, NY
- Salt Lake City, Utah
- Stockton, Calif.
- San Jose, Calif.
- Colorado Springs, Colo.
- Daytona Beach, Fla.
Most of the best 10 cities are pretty temperate, with few dramatic seasonal weather swings. Albany, N.Y. -- the only Northeast city to make the list -- has long cold seasons and lake-effect snow, meaning shorter pollen cycles.
What Makes a Place Allergy-Friendly?
What if your city’s not on the list? How can you tell if you live in an “allergy-friendly” place, other than walking outside and sniffing the air?
There are a few key factors that affect seasonal allergies.
Pollen Count. For people with seasonal allergies, it’s pretty simple: In general , the more pollen in the air, the more symptoms you may experience. Many people have symptoms when pollen counts are 20-100. However, your symptoms can be affected by recent exposure to other allergens, the intensity of pollen exposure, and your own sensitivity.
So if your allergies are making you miserable, wouldn’t it make sense to move to Anchorage, or at least to Buffalo? “You might be exposed to a lot less pollen, that’s true,” says James Sublett, M.D., FACAAI, a clinical professor and the section chief of pediatric allergy at the University of Louisville School of Medicine in Kentucky. Louisville is perennially named one of the worst places to live with seasonal allergies. “But unless you live in an extreme climate, there will be some pollen.”
And even if you do live, say, in Alaska, you might be just trading one type of pollen for another – like outdoor mold.