Wherever you live, you’re likely to breathe allergy-causing pollen. But some cities have a higher sneeze factor than others, the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America (AAFA) says. The group ranks 100 U.S. cities by pollen load, allergy medicine use, and allergy doctors. See if your town is one of the Top 10 worst "spring allergy capitals" for 2014.
No. 10: McAllen, TX
Pollen from neighborhood and backyard plants is probably most to blame for spring allergies in this city in the Rio Grande Valley. But tiny grains from mountain cedar also travel hundreds of miles by wind to get here. Smoke from seasonal burning and landfill fires in Mexico worsen allergies in McAllen.
No. 9: Birmingham, AL
Trees produce the first pollen in spring, and in Birmingham, spring comes early. Oaks and cedars get going in mid-February. Around April, the city's maple, pecan, and hickory trees join in. In late spring, grass starts up. Early pollen revs up your immune system, so you have a longer, harder sneezing season.
No. 8: Richmond, VA
Richmond is a challenge if you have allergies or asthma -- it was also named the U.S. asthma capital in 2013. About 90% of children and 50% of adults with asthma have allergies that trigger their symptoms. Breathing in allergens can trigger wheezing, shortness of breath, and chest tightness, and Richmond has pollen year round.
No. 7: Dallas, TX
Dallas vaulted from No. 23 to No. 7 in one year. The city is low in allergy doctors, high in allergy drug use, and one of the highest in pollen counts. Blame its lovely elm, ash, Arizona cypress, and that allergy powerhouse, mountain cedar. Reaction to the tree can be so strong, Texans call it "cedar fever."
No. 6: Chattanooga, TN
This city in the valley below Lookout Mountain has only average pollen levels and a good number of allergy doctors. But use of allergy medicines is high. Most hay fever drugs work best if you start them before pollen is in the air and symptoms begin. Use them early and you'll probably have less sneezing and stuffiness.
No. 5: Jackson, MS
Close to the southern border of the Mississippi Delta, Jackson has trees as far as the eye can see -- and a huge pollen load to match. Because it is an urban area, pollutants like car exhaust make spring allergy symptoms worse. But Jackson, which also has a high number of allergy doctors, scored better in 2014 than 2013, when it ranked No. 1.
No. 4: Oklahoma City, OK
The Sooner state has plenty of sunshine to spur plant growth -- as well as plenty of irksome spring pollen. Counts surge on warm, dry, windy days, and so do allergy symptoms. Find the pollen counts for your area on web sites for local news or the National Allergy Bureau. After being outdoors on a high-pollen day, take a shower, wash your hair, and change your clothes.
No. 3: Baton Rouge, LA
Like many cities, Baton Rouge gets a double dose of allergens in spring: from outdoor mold and pollen spores. But mold thrives in heat and humidity, so in the subtropical climate here, it's a year-round presence. Like pollen, it gets worse in spring.
No. 2: Memphis, TN
Like other Top 10 cities in the Deep South, Memphis has an earlier, longer spring and more intense allergy season than its northern neighbors. Plants and trees that give off spring pollen thrive in its humid weather. Pollen peaks in cities at midday. When pollen counts are high, stay indoors from late morning through the afternoon.
No. 1: Louisville, KY
When the Kentucky bluegrass grows high in late spring and summer, so does the pollen count. But a very mild winter earned the Kentucky Derby city the title of spring allergy capital 2014. Tree pollen was high by early February, with peaks in March and April. Studies show that levels are rising every year, partly because of warming climate change.
Can You Escape Allergies?
You can't ditch allergies by leaving town. In a few years, you'll most likely develop allergies to plants in your new area. Instead, try these tips:
Stay indoors when pollen counts are high. But be aware of indoor allergy triggers like dust mites, mold, pet dander, and cockroaches.
Keep inside surfaces clean.
Have bare floors instead of carpet.
Close the windows and turn on the air conditioner. This not only keeps pollen out, it lowers moisture in the air to help prevent mold growth and curb dust mites.
Gardening With Allergies
Believe it or not, you can enjoy gardening even if you have allergies. Choose plants with pollen that is spread by insects, such as azaleas, roses, daffodils, dogwoods, and pear trees. It’s heavier and less likely to take flight. Wear gloves and a face mask. Wash your hands and rinse your eyes when you come indoors.
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American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology: "Hay Fever Medications," "Outdoor Allergens: Tips to Remember."
American College of Asthma, Allergy & Immunology: "Global Warming Increases Misery for Nation's 50 Million Allergy Sufferers," "The Rise of Spring Allergies: Fact or Fiction?" “Keep Your Green Thumb, Avoid the Red Nose.”
ABC News: "Top 100 Spring Allergy Cities."
Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America: “Allergy Capitals," "Spring Allergy Capitals 2014," "More to Asthma Than Meets the Air," "Allergic Asthma," "Pollen and Mold Counts," “Indoor Air Quality and Allergies,” “Gardening With Allergies.”
Birmingham News: "Winter has come and gone (but who knew)?"
Dallas News: "Dallas ranked 23rd worst U.S. city for allergies — how to defend yourself against mountain cedar & its high pollen buddies."
Monitor: "Allergies a headache for many this time of year."
Shea Clinic: "Allergy Alert: Grab a Tissue."
James L. Sublett, MD, allergist, co-founder, Family Allergy & Asthma, Louisville, KY; president, American College of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology.
Texas MedClinic: "Symptoms and Remedies for Cedar Fever."
THIS TOOL DOES NOT PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. It is intended for general informational purposes only and does not address individual circumstances. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment and should not be relied on to make decisions about your health. Never ignore professional medical advice in seeking treatment because of something you have read on the WebMD Site. If you think you may have a medical emergency, immediately call your doctor or dial 911.