Better Cities for Allergy Sufferers
Need a break from spring sneezing? Try these allergy-friendly cities.
Each spring, as the flowers begin blooming and the world awakens from winter, millions of Americans spend days or weeks with itchy eyes, uncontrollable sneezing, and more severe symptoms associated with allergies to airborne pollen from grasses, weeds and trees. Nearly 45 million Americans live with nasal allergies and 25 million have asthma, and the spring pollen season puts them at additional risk of multiple symptoms. According to the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America (AAFA), no place in the U.S. is safe from allergies, but some cities are more problematic than others.
Each year, the AAFA ranks the 100 most challenging places to live with spring allergies. While the worst cities are often publicized, it's hard to find out which locations are more forgiving for allergies. Turning the list on its head, here are the five cities on the list that are the least challenging for spring allergy sufferers:
3. Denver, CO
5. Ogden, UT
Making the List
To rank cities for allergy sufferers, AAFA analyzes three factors. "First, we gather recorded data for each city's pollen score to get a picture of how much pollen is actually in the air," says Sanaz Eftekhari, external affairs manager at the AAFA. "For people with nasal allergies, the airborne tree pollen during the spring season can cause symptoms to appear; a lower amount of pollen can be a contributing factor in making a location less difficult for allergy sufferers."
Pollen scores are determined by measuring the airborne grass, tree and weed pollen in the air, as well as mold spores in the area.
Second, researchers assess the reliance on allergy medications within each city. That includes all over-the-counter, behind-the-counter, and prescription medications that are indicated for nasal allergies. "We consider lower medication utilization to be an indicator of a city that is less challenging for allergy sufferers," Eftekhari says.
Finally, AAFA analyzes the number of Board-certified allergy and immunology specialists per 10,000 estimated patients. "A higher ratio of specialists to patients can be an indicator that patients have better access to care," Eftekhari explains. "They may not have to wait as long for an appointment, and may have more choice when choosing a specialist."
If the pollen in your community has you sneezing and your eyes watering, moving to one of the less challenging cities for allergies may not be an option. But the allergy season isn't likely to offer any relief quickly. "Even though in many places it feels like winter won't let go, recent research shows that, on average, spring now arrives up to 14 days earlier that it did just 20 years ago, bringing with it increased pollen counts," Eftekhari says. "Sunny signs of spring began appearing as early as February, and the spring allergy season is expected to carry into early or mid-summer."
So even if you can't relocate to Ogden, San Diego, Denver, Daytona Beach or Colorado Springs, you may want to take a springtime vacation to one of those cities. Your nose will thank you.