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Worst U.S. Cities for Allergies

By Brad Broker

After a series of 15 consecutive, involuntary, rapid fire sneezes, I unofficially declared the beginning of allergy season.  Turns out, the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America (AAFA) beat me to it by releasing its top 100 list of Spring Allergy Capitals — the worst places to be for allergy sufferers.

The AAFA list ranks cities on pollen score, number of people taking allergy medication, and the number of board certified allergists-per-patient in the region.  “We do this ranking to make people aware of their environment and what they may face,” Angel Waldron, a spokesperson for the AAFA, said to USA Today.

Jackson, Mississippi led the way this year, up three places from 2012.  In fact, 15 of the top 25 Spring Allergy Capitals are located in the Southern part of the United States. Jackson’s rise to the top was due to very high pollen and a large reliance on allergy medications among allergy patients.

Dr. Gailen Marshall, chief of clinical immunology and allergies at the University of Mississippi Medical Center, told ABC News he wasn’t surprised to learn that Jackson was the No. 1  springtime allergy capital in the U.S. “We’re caught in a perfect storm,” said Marshall. “Right now, it’s tree season, and as far as the eye can see [there are] groves and groves of trees. The sheer volume of pollen is huge here.”

Northern cities predicted to face a more challenging spring allergy season compared to one year ago include: Buffalo, NY (rising 10 spots to rank #15 out of 100 cities), Springfield, MA, (rising 74 spots to #18), Detroit, MI, (rising 50 spots to #26) and Toledo, OH (rising 57 spots to #29).

Some of the increases in allergies in these regions can be attributed to more severe weather patterns, which “can bring higher temperatures, higher pollen levels and increased exposure to outdoor mold, resulting in spring allergies that can peak stronger and last longer,” said Bill Berger, MD, Allergy and Asthma Associates of Southern California. Recent hurricanes, severe storms and tornadoes can also affect the severity of spring allergies. The increased presence of mold in areas damaged by floods can trigger allergic reactions.

Major urban areas and locations with significant construction may also see an increased risk for severe allergies, because pollen from weeds proliferates in places with development projects. The largest top cities on the list cluster from 23-26 include: Dallas, TX; San Antonio, TX; Philadelphia, PA; and Detroit, MI.

The best way for people to manage seasonal allergies is to avoid allergy triggers like pollen and outdoor mold, get properly diagnosed, and use fast-acting, more effective medications to prevent and treat symptoms.

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