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 2013.
No. 10: Baton Rouge, La.
The capital of Louisiana is now an official spring allergy capital, too. Baton Rouge moves up to the top 10 this year. Some of the blame can go to the moist, humid air in this semitropical climate. Mold grows when humidity is high, setting off mold allergy symptoms.
No. 9: Oklahoma City, Okla.
The Sooner state has plenty of sunshine to spur plant growth -- as well as plenty of irritating spring pollen. Pollen levels tend to be worse in Sunbelt states and on warm, windy days. You can find the count for your area at local news web sites or the non-profit National Allergy Bureau web site. After being outdoors on a high pollen day, take a shower, wash your hair, and change your clothes.
No. 8: Memphis, Tenn.
Spring allergy season has people singing the blues in Memphis. The city of Elvis also prides itself on its mighty oak trees -- each of which gives off thousands of pollen particles. Tree pollen can travel miles on a breeze. With a moist climate that also makes mold more likely to grow, Memphis is a place of sneezing and wheezing.
No. 7: Dayton, Ohio
Dayton’s rank moved up from No. 10 last year. This hometown to Orville and Wilbur Wright is sometimes called the "Birthplace of Aviation." Pollen takes flight in the early morning and peaks between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. The best time to be outdoors is in the late afternoon or on cool, wet days when pollen counts are low.
No. 6: Wichita, Kan.
This city on the prairie has strong spring winds that blow the pollen across the plains. Whether your town is far inland or close to water, pollen can drift in and cause allergies.
No. 5: Louisville, Ky.
This port city on the Ohio River -- home of the Louisville Slugger and the Kentucky Derby -- often ranks among the top allergy capitals. Louisville is in the bluegrass region of the state, but grasses are just one source of pollen. Trees put out their pollen in late winter and spring, while grasses do so in late spring and summer.
No. 4: McAllen, Texas
Think the American Southwest has a dry climate that will help your allergies? McAllen, Texas, proves that pollen can spread anywhere. Located at the southern tip of the state, McAllen is often hot and humid in the springtime. Weather and humidity affect pollen, so check the day's pollen counts before you head outdoors.
No. 3: Chattanooga, Tenn.
Chattanooga moves up four notches to No. 3. The city is perhaps most famous for being in the valley below Lookout Mountain, and for the steam-powered “choo-choo” that once went through town. Lower the amount of pollen that gets inside your home by:
Keeping windows and doors shut
Setting the air conditioning to recirculate
No. 2: Knoxville, Tenn.
After a few years at the top of the spring allergy list, Knoxville drops down a spot. This eastern Tennessee city has plenty of charm and scenic mountain beauty, but it has plenty of pollen, too. Allergy relief can come from reducing your pollen contact and from many different medicines. Your health care provider is a good place to get advice.
No. 1: Jackson, Miss.
Jackson moves up three spots to top the allergy list. It's crisscrossed by the Pearl River and the Natchez Trace Parkway, a leafy, scenic drive that was created by Native Americans and early settlers. With its diverse forests, prairies, and croplands, it is also a hot spot for allergy action. Did you know that 40 million Americans have indoor/outdoor allergies? The most common outdoor triggers include pollen from trees, grasses, and weeds.
Can You Escape Allergies?
Staying indoors may give you some relief from spring pollen. But be aware of indoor allergy triggers, too, such as dust mites, mold, pet dander, and cockroaches. Keep surfaces clean. Bare floors are better than carpet. Air conditioning can lower moisture in the air to help prevent mold growth and curb dust mites. Tempted to move away? In a few years, you're likely to develop allergies to plants in your new city.
Gardening With Allergies
Believe it or not, you can still enjoy gardening even if you have allergies. Choose plants whose pollen is spread by insects, such as azaleas, roses, daffodils, dogwoods, and pear trees. Pollen from these sources tends to be heavier and less likely to become airborne. Wear gloves and a face mask. Wash your hands and rinse your eyes when you come indoors.
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7) Richard Cummins / Robert Harding World Imagery
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American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology: "National Allergy Bureau," "Outdoor Allergens: Tips to Remember."
American College of Asthma, Allergy & Immunology: “Global Warming Increases Misery for Nation’s 35 Million Allergy Sufferers,"“Keep Your Green Thumb, Avoid the Red Nose.”
Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America: “Allergy Capitals,” “Pollen and Mold Counts,” "Allergy Facts and Figures," “Indoor Air Quality and Allergies,” “Gardening With Allergies.”
Kansas Geological Survey: “South-central Kansas Geohydrology.”
Memphis Commercial-Appeal, “Allergy Seasons: Pollen in Spring, Mold in Fall – Irritants Fluctuate, Vary in Mid-South,” November 8, 2010.
Memphis Commercial-Appeal, “Breathe it and Weep: Memphis Pollen Nothing to Sneeze at for Allergy-Prone,” April 9, 2010.
MemphisWeather.Net: “Overview of Memphis and Mid-South Weather.”
National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences: “Pollen.”
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.