Spring Allergy Hotspots: Where Does Your Town Rank?

By Melinda Carstensen

In the wake of seemingly relentless snow and frigid temperatures, experts are urging allergy sufferers to brace themselves for a “pollen vortex.”

Late winter snow, early spring showers and skyrocketing temperatures are all to thank for an increase in pollen count this year,according to the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology.

But which part of the country has it the worst? According to an annual report by the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America, that prize goes to Louisville, Kentucky — the city with the highest pollen levels, allergy medication used and number of allergists. The AAFA used those criteria to rank U.S. cities from worst to best for allergens.

The AAFA predicts spring allergy season will last until June in many parts of the country.

Memphis, Tenn., was named the second worst place for spring allergies, followed by Baton Rouge, Louisiana, Oklahoma City and Jackson, Miss. The Patch areas of Richmond, Va., ranked eighth place, while Dayton, Ohio, scored 11th place.

Spring allergies are worse in the South and the East, James Sublett, of the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology, told Slate. In these areas of the country, more deciduous trees release pollen at the same time.

According to a map based on this year’s report, the Pacific Northwest ranks best, with most of its towns scoring average or better than average for seasonal allergies. The West and Midwest fared better than the Northeast, the Mid-Atlantic and the South, where there are a handful of more allergy-inducing tree species, Slate reported.

More than 50 million Americans suffer from nasal allergies, which are brought on by Immunoglobulin E. IgE binds to allergens and causes red, itchy eyes, and runny noses.

Nasal sprays and oral medication for allergies abound, some ranking among the most prescribed medications of 2013. Nasonex, for example, topped out at about $1.14 billion in sales last year.

But those who aren’t taking medications can still make their homes and diets more allergy-friendly. High-efficiency particulate air filters can trap allergens and help purify air, and one study shows herbs and supplements like spirulina, eyebright and goldenseal may ease allergies. Taking hot showers and eating spicy food can also provide temporary relief for allergy sufferers, experts say.

David Rosenstreich, a doctor and the director of allergy and immunology at Montefiore Medical Center in New York City, told the Weather Channel that just keeping in mind allergy season generally starts in February can help sufferers prepare. 

“Know when you’re going to have problems, and when you should start taking your medications,” Rosenstreich said. “By and large you don’t need to take them too far in advance, but as soon as you start having symptoms you should start on medications and antihistamines.”