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Allergy Capitals of the United States: What Are the Worst Places to Live with Seasonal Allergies?

Somewhere between 10 and 30 percent of American adults struggle with allergic rhinitis — more commonly called hay fever — and up to 40 percent of children are plagued by hay fever symptoms. If you, too, are affected, or someone else in your family is, preparing for allergy season ahead of time can help you steer clear of the worst symptoms. People with severe allergy symptoms may even, meanwhile, consider the best and worst places to live with seasonal allergies before they move home.

What are Seasonal Allergies?

Seasonal allergies differ from perennial allergies (allergies to substances like mold and dust mites) in that the symptoms only occur at certain times of the year. As natural substances that do not bother non-allergic people — such as tree and grass pollen — are released into the air that you then breathe in, the immune system of people with allergies see these allergens as a threat. The body kicks into defensive mode when it encounters them, by fighting the allergen with histamines and other chemicals that can cause debilitating symptoms.

Sneezing, a runny or congested nose, and itchy, swollen, and red eyes are the most common signs of airborne allergies. Some people who suffer from seasonal allergies will additionally suffer from constant fatigue, headaches, and have trouble concentrating.

The precise causes of seasonal allergies depend on the season, as trees and plants release pollen at different times:

  • Spring allergies are typically produced by tree pollen. Ash trees, poplars, and birch trees are some of the worst offenders.
  • Summer allergies are usually caused by grass and weed pollen, with timothy grass and rye grass being two common culprits. The name “hay fever” originates from the fact that the timing of these allergies was traditionally associated with hay cutting season.
  • Fall allergies are generally associated with ragweed, or Ambrosia, which is known to be able to induce extremely severe symptoms in many allergy sufferers.
  • Winter allergies are far less common, but not non-existent. Some trees, including box elder and mulberry trees and shrubs, can begin releasing pollen in the late winter, starting in January.

Although seasonal allergies can only definitively be diagnosed with the help of blood tests and skin prick tests, people who exclusively suffer from allergy symptoms during certain seasons can be relatively sure that they are allergic to the pollen released during that time. If you were to seek medical attention for your allergy symptoms, you are quite likely to be told that formal diagnosis is not required.

Are Seasonal Allergies Getting Worse?

In short, yes. According to the CDC, climate change — and its associated alterations in temperature, rain and snowfall, and concentrations of carbon dioxide in the air — is strongly contributing to longer allergy seasons that also lead to more severe symptoms. Pollen season may start earlier and last longer, and more pollen may be released into the air. As the air is more polluted in general, people with allergies may also react more strongly.

Because of this, it is more important than ever to pay attention to pollen concentrations in your region — and to take steps to reduce exposure as much as you can.

What Are the Worst Places to Live with Seasonal Allergies?

Places with higher pollen concentrations, and those in which pollen season lasts longer, will be more challenging for people who suffer from seasonal allergies. These two factors are not the only ones that determine how allergy-unfriendly a particular place is, though — access to board-certified allergists, who can be essential in helping sufferers manage their symptoms successfully, also have to be considered. Based on these variables, the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America compiled a list of the very worst places in the United States to live in for people who suffer from seasonal allergies. They are currently:

  1. Scranton, Pennsylvania
  2. Richmond, Virginia
  3. Wichita, Kansas
  4. McAllen, Texas
  5. Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
  6. Hartford, Connecticut
  7. Springfield, Massachusetts
  8. New Haven, Connecticut
  9. Oklahoma City, Oklahoma
  10. Bridgeport, Connecticut

As climate conditions and access to qualified medical personnel changes, however, these “allergy capitals” do tend to shift over time.

Now that you know the worst places to live with seasonal allergies, you will also, of course, want to know where you should ideally move if you live with severe allergic rhinitis. The best places to live if you have seasonal allergies — based on lower pollen concentrations as well as increased access to medical care — are:

  1. Denver, Colorado
  2. Fresno, California
  3. Portland, Oregon
  4. Milwaukee, Wisconsin
  5. Stockton, California
  6. San Jose, California
  7. Salt Lake City, Utah
  8. Provo, Utah
  9. Seattle, Washington
  10. Durham, North Carolina

How Can You Reduce Seasonal Allergy Symptoms?

Regardless of where you live, you can, as someone who suffers from seasonal allergies, take steps to reduce your exposure to allergenic pollen. In combination with medication, this can greatly alleviate your symptoms. If you suffer from allergic rhinitis, or someone else in your home does, you should:

  • Keep a keen eye on your local pollen counts, found online or on local news broadcasts, and stay indoors as much as possible on extremely high pollen days. Making sure your windows are closed reduces the amount of pollen that can enter your home.
  • Wash contaminated fabrics, which include not only clothes but also bedding and curtains, as soon as possible to cleanse them of pollen. Air drying your laundry outdoors is a bad idea if you suffer from seasonal allergies, as pollen will build up within them, increasing your symptoms. Shoes should also be removed before entering the home.
  • Consider wearing an N95 respirator to filter out airborne allergens when you do have to venture outside on high pollen days, as they filter out the majority of allergenic particles.
  • Install an air purifier with a true HEPA filter, which is effectively able to trap over 99 percent of harmful particles including pollen, in your home.
  • Bathe your pet dog, if you have one, after they have spent time outside — to prevent them from bringing pollen inside.
  • Use prescription and over-the-counter allergy medications such as antihistamines as directed by your health care provider.

What Should People with Seasonal Allergies Know About Indoor Air Quality?

People who suffer from debilitating seasonal allergies are routinely advised to stay inside their homes or their workplaces on days when the pollen count in their area is extremely high, and to keep their windows closed to reduce the influx of pollen into their homes.

You may be surprised to learn that the average American adult already spends around 90 percent of their time indoors — at home, in their workplace, or in vehicles. When you have severe allergies, it is easy to start seeing “the great outdoors” as the enemy; a place associated with an immediate threat to your health. It is also crucial, meanwhile, to consider the fact that poor indoor air quality may be contributing to your allergy symptoms.

People who suffer from seasonal allergies are also frequently allergic to substances besides pollen. In your home, dust mites and mold pose the biggest risks. Mold thrives in damp and humid conditions often caused by insufficient ventilation. By following the common advice to keep your windows closed, you may be raising the relative humidity levels in your home, easily allowing a mold infestation to take hold.

Mold may be apparently be visible. You may be able to smell it, as well. That is not always true, however, as mold can accumulate in hidden moist spaces in your home, around leaky pipes or in attics or basements. Once present, continued allergy symptoms while you are indoors may be your only obvious clue that you have a mold problem.

People who suffer from seasonal allergies may, for this reason, consider having a professional mold inspection carried out on their property. As a nationwide mold inspection only company, MI&T can perform a full mold inspection whether you live in an allergy capital or a less challenging region. After a thorough visual inspection, we take air samples that let you know exactly what types of mold may be present on your property, and in which concentrations. After receiving a full mold inspection report from MI&T, you will be equipped with the knowledge you need to successfully remediate a mold infestation.