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America’s Allergy Capitals

Every year, the Allergy and Asthma Foundation of America grades U.S. cities on how hard it is for people with allergies to live there. Places that top the rankings score high on pollen counts and allergy medicine use, and low on available allergy doctors. Did your hometown make the list?

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No. 10: Pittsburgh, PA

Pittsburgh is famous for its three rivers and the almost 500 bridges that cross them. It’s also home to plenty of pollen-producing trees, like elm, Eastern red cedars, and box elders. That helps make it the nation’s 16th most polluted city when it comes to daily spikes in particle pollution -- that nasty mix of solids and liquids you’ll find in exhaust from cars and factories.  

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No. 9: Oklahoma City, OK

Oklahoma is where the winds sweep down the plains, along with the things that make you sneeze. The state capital ranks ninth in part because of its perfect allergy-promoting conditions. OKC’s climate is just right for allergens to multiply, and the blustery weather keeps those allergens afloat and in your face.

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No. 8: Bridgeport, CT

Thanks to a warming climate, this historic seaport has seen spring bloom earlier in recent years compared to a decade ago. A longer allergy season means Northeastern cities like Bridgeport are making their debut on the top 10 list.

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No. 7: San Antonio, TX

In sunny San Antonio, you won’t forget the Alamo -- or your allergies. Because it’s warm year round, plants like cedar, oak, mulberry, elm, and ash all have plenty of time to pump out the pollen. Ground covers like Bermuda and bahiagrass stir up allergies, too.

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No. 6: New Haven, CT

Despite its coastal location, Yale University’s hometown has a double whammy of both high pollen counts and poor air quality. The American Lung Association gives it an F for the number of high ozone days, when smog increases and traps allergens in the air. 

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No. 5: McAllen, TX

Residents of this south Texas city on the Rio Grande can breathe easier this year -- but only a little. McAllen drops to No. 5 from its No. 1 spot in 2019. Dry cold fronts bring mountain cedar pollen -- one of central Texas’s worst allergens -- into town each year. Add that to the city’s own pollen counts, and an average annual rainfall of only 22 inches, and you’ve got a recipe for fierce allergy flares.

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No. 4: Hartford, CT

Dating to 1635, Connecticut’s capital is rich with history -- and allergy causing trees. Oak, ash, elm, maple, and birch all flourish here. This puts Hartford on the list of worst cities for asthma, too.

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No 3: Springfield, MA

If you come to visit the Basketball Hall of Fame, bring your tissues. Springfield sits in a valley, which means it gathers up all the allergens and air pollution into one sniffly, sneezy spot. Carbon dioxide hangs around longer, too, helping allergens thrive.

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No. 2: Scranton, PA

Rich in railway and mining history, this eastern Pennsylvania city rose six spots from its No. 8 ranking in 2019 to this year’s No. 2 slot. It barely missed top marks with a 98.53. Birch trees, a leading cause of allergies, grow well in Scranton’s coal banks. Tree and grass pollen seasons also overlap, making the sneeze season longer and more intense.

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No. 1: Richmond, VA

The AAFA awarded Virginia’s capital the top allergy city spot and a “perfect” score of 100 because of its triple threat: soaring spring pollen counts, higher than normal allergy medicine use, and fewer allergists than average.

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Sources | Medically Reviewed on 05/20/2020 Reviewed by Carol DerSarkissian on May 20, 2020

IMAGES PROVIDED BY:

1) Alkimson / Getty Images

2) Pgiam / Getty Images

3) DenisTangneyJr / Getty Images

4) DenisTangneyJr / Getty Images

5) dszc / Getty Images

6) DenisTangneyJr / Getty Images

7) DenisTangneyJr / Getty Images

8) SeanPavonePhoto / Getty Images

9) DenisTangneyJr / Getty Images

10) DenisTangneyJr / Getty Images

11) Sean Pavone / Getty Images

SOURCES:

Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America: “2020 Allergy Capitals,” “Air Pollution.”

News release, Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America.

American Academy of Allergy Asthma and Immunology: “National Allergy Bureau Pollen And Mold Report.”

American Lung Association: “Ozone,” “Particle Pollution,” “State of the Air.”

OMRF: “Oklahoma among the worst spots for fall allergy sufferers.”

NBC Connecticut: “Early Spring Allergies In Connecticut & Knowing the Difference Between COVID-19.”

Aspire Allergy and Sinus: “What are the Worst Allergies in San Antonio?”

KRGV Broadcasting: “Expert Explains How Weather Raises Pollen Levels and Worsens Seasonal Allergies.”

Texas MedClinic: “Symptoms and Remedies for Cedar Fever.”

U.S. Climate Data: “McAllen, Texas.”

Hartford.gov: “Fun Facts.”

Hartford Courant: “Connecticut Spring Allergies: Top Causes and Solutions.”

Western Mass News: “Springfield ranked among top for most challenging for spring allergies.”

The Greater Scranton Chamber of Commerce: “Our History.”

The Citizens’ Voice: “Scranton/Wilkes-Barre one of most challenging areas for spring allergy sufferers.”

Virginia Tourism Corporation: “Historic Sites Virginia State Capitol.”

Reviewed by Carol DerSarkissian on May 20, 2020

This tool does not provide medical advice. See additional information.

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.