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Is Your City on the List?
Wherever you live, you’re likely to breathe allergy-causing pollen. But some cities have a higher sneeze factor than others, according to the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America (AAFA). The group ranks 100 U.S. cities by pollen load, allergy medicine use, and allergy doctors. See if your town is one of the top ten worst "spring allergy capitals" for 2012.
No. 10: Dayton, Ohio
Residents of Dayton, Ohio, may be breathing a little easier. Dayton’s rank dropped to No. 10 this year. This hometown to Orville and Wilbur Wright is sometimes called the "Birthplace of Aviation." Pollen takes flight in the early morning and peaks between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. The best time to be outdoors is in the late afternoon or on cool, wet days when pollen counts are low.
No. 9: San Antonio, Texas
People come to San Antonio to remember the Alamo, where Texans fought to the last man to be free from Mexico. Just don’t forget your allergy medicine. San Antonio moved into the top 10 worst allergy cities with a burst of spring pollen. Last year, it was No. 42. City rankings shift from year to year, depending on whether a city improved or faltered in any of AAFA's categories.
No. 8: Memphis, Tenn.
Spring allergy season has people singing the blues in Memphis. The city of Elvis also prides itself on its mighty oak trees -- which each produce thousands of pollen particles. Tree pollen can travel miles on a breeze to spread allergy misery far and wide. With a moist climate that also makes mold more likely to grow, Memphis is a place of sneezing and wheezing. The city rose from No. 17 last year.
No. 7: Chattanooga, Tenn.
Chattanooga drops down two notches to No. 7. The city is perhaps most famous for being in the valley below Lookout Mountain, and for the steam-powered "choo-choo" that once went through town. Lower the amount of pollen that gets inside your home by:
- Keeping windows and doors shut
- Setting the air conditioning to recirculate
No. 6: Oklahoma City, Okla.
The Sooner state has plenty of sunshine to spur plant growth -- as well as an abundance of irritating spring pollen. Pollen levels tend to be worse in Sunbelt states and on warm, windy days. You can find the count for your area at local news web sites or the non-profit National Allergy Bureau web site. After being outdoors on a high pollen day, take a shower, wash your hair, and change your clothes.
No. 5: Wichita, Kan.
Wichita returns to a top 10 ranking after one year at No. 13. This city in the prairie has strong spring winds that blow the pollen across the plains. Whether your town is far inland or close to water, pollen can drift in and cause allergies.
No. 4: Jackson, Miss.
The city of Jackson, Mississippi, is crisscrossed by the Pearl River and the Natchez Trace Parkway, a leafy, scenic drive that was created by Native Americans and early settlers. With its diverse forests, prairies, and croplands, it is also a hot spot for allergy action. Did you know that 40 million Americans have indoor/outdoor allergies? The most common outdoor triggers include pollen from trees, grasses, and weeds.
No. 3: Louisville, Ky.
This port city on the Ohio River -- home of the Louisville Slugger and the Kentucky Derby -- ranks consistently among the top allergy capitals. Louisville is in the bluegrass region of the state, but grasses are just one source of pollen. Trees pollinate in late winter and spring, while grasses pollinate in late spring and summer.
No. 2: McAllen, Texas
Think the American Southwest has a dry climate that will help control your allergies? McAllen, Texas, proves that pollen can multiply anywhere. Located at the southern tip of the state, McAllen is often hot and humid in the springtime. Weather and humidity affect pollen, so check the day's pollen counts before you head outdoors.
No. 1: Knoxville, Tenn.
Knoxville again claimed the No. 1 spot among spring allergy capitals. This eastern Tennessee city has plenty of charm and scenic mountain beauty, but it has plenty of pollen, too. Last year it ranked among AAFA’s top cities for fall allergies and asthma as well. Allergy relief can come from reducing your pollen exposure and from many different types of medicine. Your health care provider is a good place to seek guidance.
Can You Escape Allergies?
Staying indoors may give you some relief from spring pollen. But be aware of indoor allergy triggers, too, such as dust mites, mold, pet dander, and cockroaches. Keep surfaces clean. Bare floors are better than carpeting. Air conditioning can lower moisture in the air to help prevent mold growth and curb dust mites. Tempted to move away? In a few years, you're likely to develop allergies to plants in your new city.
Gardening With Allergies
Believe it or not, you can still enjoy gardening even if you have allergies. Choose plants that are pollinated by insects, such as azaleas, roses, daffodils, dogwoods, and pear trees. Pollen from these sources tends to be heavier and less likely to become airborne. Wear gloves and a face mask. Wash your hands and rinse your eyes when you come indoors.
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