It is not unusual to hear people plagued with allergies declare their intention to move someplace cooler, drier, higher, or whatever it will take to give them some relief. Obviously it is not usually possible to pull up roots and move, and even if it were, moving is probably not the answer. It is fun, however, to dream about living in an “allergy friendly” city.
Each year the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America publishes lists for spring and fall—the worst seasons for allergies--ranking one hundred metropolitan areas in the United States according to three criteria: an analysis of the pollen count, a study of data for sales of allergy medication, and the number of allergy specialists working in the area. Since a higher score indicates more allergies, those cities with the lowest scores are the ones allergy sufferers might want to consider.
The Spring 2013 list names Jackson, Mississippi, as the worst place in the country for allergies, with a perfect score of 100. The southern city earned its ranking based on its very high pollen count, a large reliance on allergy medications, and a limited number of allergists to treat people. The high pollen count is in part due to the large number of local pollinating trees, including poplar, willow, red cedar, elm, and hack berry.
At the other end of the list is Daytona Beach, Florida, with a score of 43.8. Daytona Beach, which placed ninety-eighth in 2012, has a very low pollen count, limited sales of allergy medications, and plenty of allergy specialists to go around.
Joining Daytona Beach as desirable cities for allergy sufferers are Oxnard, CA; Denver, CO; Stockton, CA; Seattle, WA; Sacramento, CA; Palm Bay, FL; Sarasota, FL; San Diego, CA; Portland, OR; and Boise, ID.
Cities considered allergy-friendly tend to be fairly temperate with few drastic seasonal weather swings. In terms of geography, mountainous areas are less allergy-prone than valleys. If the mountains happen to be in the western part of the country—so much the better. Wild grasses in the mountains of the southeast and Midwest can drive up pollen counts.
Allergy sufferers looking to move should consider living near the ocean where the breezes blow the pollen away.
Although it seems city living would be kinder to allergy sufferers, pollution from diesel particulates, as well as pollen and ragweed from the weeds and plants along the roadways and in vacant lots, can make the country look good.
As tempting as a mountain cabin or waterfront cottage may be, experts agree it is best to manage allergies, not try to escape them. Although people with seasonal allergies do experience initial relief in allergy-friendly regions, they eventually develop sensitivities to outdoor pollens regardless of where they live. Pollen is nearly impossible to escape unless you want to live in an extreme climate, such as the South Pole.
People with seasonal allergies should keep an eye on pollen counts, which are often mentioned in weather reports, as well as being available online. A pollen count measures the average number of pollen grains per cubic meter of air. Zero to thirty grains is considered low, 31-60 moderate, 61-120 high, and over 120 extremely high.
Dry, warm, windy days are worst for pollen allergies, while rainy days tend to ground the pollen, keeping the air clear. Some plants do not release pollen on cloudy days, but store it up for the next warm, clear day.
Avoid going outdoors during peak pollen times, including early morning before 7:30 am, and between 8 and 10 am in the countryside and midnight and 2 am in the city. If allergies are really acting up, you might want to shower and change clothes after coming in from outside. Asthma Allergy Technology LLC has a variety of masks available for people who must be outside, including this all-purpose, lightweight dust mask.
Over-the-counter and prescription medications can help control the symptoms of pollen allergies, with antihistamines being the first line of attack. Also available are decongestants, nasal allergy sprays, steroid nasal sprays, eye drops, shots, and mast cell and leukotriene inhibitors.
If all else fails, spring break revelers at Daytona Beach will find themselves sharing the beach and pollen-clearing ocean breezes with allergy sufferers who have left home in search of a life without itching, sneezing, and red, watery eyes.