The 15 Worst Cities for Spring Allergies from The 15 Worst Cities for Spring Allergies

The 15 Worst Cities for Spring Allergies

Spring is here but so are the sneezes and sniffles that usually accompany it, making more than 50 million people in the U.S. miserable, according to the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology. Allergies are the 6th leading cause of chronic illness in the U.S. Treating them costs about $18 billion annually.

Every year the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America (AAFA) ranks the worst places for allergies. The report looks at three key factors – pollen score, allergy medication usage and availability of board-certified allergists.

“Pollen allergies are worsening throughout the U.S. due to climate changes,” Dr. Mrinalini Borczuk, an allergist at Long Island City Allergy in New York, says. Some cities on the list have been usual suspects, while others, such as Syracuse in New York, made a shocking jump from No. 20 last year to No. 3 in 2016.

“Weather and seasonal patterns have changed,” Dr. Borczuk adds. “We have had milder winters, which cause early pollination. The late starts of winter have prolonged our fall season as well, prolonging ragweed season, which is the predominant pollen in the fall in the northeast.” The El Nino phenomenon has also had an effect.

1. Jackson, Mississippi

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Jackson appears regularly on the list of the worst cities for spring allergies (Here's what to do if you're a runner and have the condition). It was No. 1 last year as well. The pollen is too thick there. Moderate temperatures, foliage and humidity have created perfect conditions (5 Tips for Running in Heat and Humidity). “Humidity from precipitation also causes growth of fungus and release of mold spores,” Dr. Borczuk says.

2. Memphis, Tennessee

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Memphis, which also happened to be on the list of least fit cities in the U.S., was No. 4 a year ago, moving up to second place. The pollen score and the use of allergy medicine have been ranked above average of 300 cubic meters daily and 0.98 medications per patient, respectively. “Trees tend to grow better with warm air and intermittent rain,” Dr. Borczuk says. “This is the primary weather pattern and precipitation we have seen.”

3. Syracuse, New York

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Syracuse is the big surprise on the list, moving up 17 spots in a year to make the Top 3 worst cities for allergies. The city received very high pollen scores. “The blankets of snow we have had in the past enrich the ground to provide more moisture to have increased fungal growth and mold spore release,” Dr. Borczuk says. “It also enriches other pollen growth.” Syracuse is the worst place for allergies in the Northeast.

4. Louisville, Kentucky

In a way Louisville has gotten a little better – it was No. 2 in the previous AAFA ranking. That's good news if you're looking to go there for a guy's only getaway. But people are using more and more allergy medications to alleviate symptoms. Geography plays a big role in making Louisville bad for allergy sufferers: It’s in a river valley, guaranteeing that the city will be enclosed by the pollen released by the Cumberland Mountains to the northwest and Smoky Mountains to the southeast. 

5. McAllen, Texas

McAllen scored higher than average in all three categories – pollen score, allergy medication usage and availability of board-certified allergists. The fact that the city is in the Rio Grande Valley is not helping. The pollen from cedar trees in mountains are brought by the breeze from many miles away. Dry weather makes things worse. The average annual rain precipitation is only 22.24 inches. (How to Dress for Rain in the Backcountry)

6. Wichita, Kansas

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Wichita, the largest city in the state, owes its worse than average pollen score to weeds and grasses, the usual culprit for common nasal allergies. As a result, medicines are used more often, moving Wichita one spot higher on the list. It was No. 7 last year. “Vegetation, including pollen producing weeds, grasses and trees, thrive on the increased CO2 and produce more robust pollen,” Dr. Borczuk says. Wichita is also the worst place for allergy sufferers in the Midwest.

7. Oklahoma City, Oklahoma

The capital of the Sooner State was No. 3 in 2015. Its overall mark is still “worse than average” because of the city’s pollen score and medicine use. Mold, which may be one of the things in your home making you sick, is a year-round problem in Oklahoma City. Staying inside can definitely help with allergy symptoms (know what to for relief), but make sure you’re not exposed to molds or dust mites. Pets can bring pollen from outside.

8. Providence, Rhode Island

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Providence has been moving higher and higher on the list. It was No. 25 in 20012, reaching No. 17 in 2014, and No. 9 last year. It is now No. 8. This is mostly due to the fact that the allergy meds usage has gone up. The allergy forecast for the city says that pollen levels are and will remain from high to medium.

9. Knoxville, Tennessee

The pollen levels are not that different than in other cities on the list but people take more medications to treat the symptoms, suggesting they are more severe. Pollen from oak, birch, and maple box elder trees is likely the culprit. The mountains around the city contribute to the sneezing and sniffling because they trap the tiny particles in the valley.

10. Buffalo, New York

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Buffalo made the biggest jump in the Top 15 cities that are worst for spring allergies, moving from No. 36 to No. 10 in a year. Pollen levels have been the major problem. “The rapid temperature changes from global warming and the changes in moisture have caused us to have blending of our seasons, exponentially increasing our allergy symptoms,” Dr. Borczuk says. The sunny and dry springs there mean that pollen sticks around for longer.

11. Dayton, Ohio

Dayton is another regular on the list. Moving up and down a couple of spots every year, the sixth largest city in the state remains one of the worst places for allergy sufferers because of the city's worse than average pollen levels and the use of meds per person for treatment. The allergy season in Dayton is usually more severe because many plants and trees bloom simultaneously, releasing a lot of pollen all over the streets.

12. Little Rock, Arkansas

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Little Rock is high on the list because the allergy medicine usage per patient has remained “worse than average.” High weed and mold counts are to blame. “The increased pollen causes more allergy symptoms,” Dr. Borczuk says. IN addition to that, the ozone due to global warming causes more asthma suffering (The Best and Worst Workouts for Asthma) both for allergy sufferers and non-allergy sufferers, she adds.

13. Columbia, South Carolina

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Columbia, the capital of and largest city in South Carolina, has been moving up in the rankings – from No. 34 in 2013 to No. 13 now. Both pollen score and medicine use are contributing. The city gets an average rainfall of 47.98 inches, about 9 more than the national average (7 Workout Solutions for Rainy Days). “The rain provides future grass, weed or tree pollen growth,” Dr. Borczuk says. “Springtime in the past meant a slower pattern of pollen released from different species of trees. It now appears that within a few days the pollen from all or most of the trees is aerosolized at the same time, heightening allergies.”

14. Richmond, Virginia

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Richmond moved down from No. 10 last year but maintains a spot in the Top 15 because of high pollen scores. Climate change (see how these cities will be totally different) is affecting ground level ozone, causing longer ragweed growing seasons. “Global warming has caused changes in our climate by adding more carbon dioxide, which pollen-producing grass and trees thrive on, to the environment and more moisture as well, according to Dr. Borczuk.

15. Baton Rouge, Louisiana

Baton Rouge is on the list because of worse than average use of allergy meds per person. Springtime doesn't always mean breathtaking colors and flowers. In Baton Rouge it also means humidity, which can bring random rainfalls. “A big rainfall washes down the pollen off the trees and makes symptoms better temporarily,” Dr. Borczuk says. “But then as the weather improves and wind picks up, the dried pollen on surfaces gets aerosolized and worsens our symptoms.”

The 15 Worst Cities for Spring Allergies