Allergy

Which City Is the Worst for Fall Allergies This Year?

By Tiarra Mukherjee

November 06 2018 12:45 AM EST

weather.com

50. Cape Coral, FL (Thinkstock)
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50. Cape Coral, FL (Thinkstock)

If you’re sniffling, sneezing, wheezing, itchy-eyed and always the first one sick after Labor Day — you’ve probably got fall allergies. Making matters worse, where you live might affect your symptoms. The good news is, the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America (AAFA) knows your pain and so, to help you get ahead of it, they released their latest list of top 100 fall allergy capitals.

“Unlike earlier years when the fall capitals were mostly northeastern, the cities on this year’s list are concentrated heavily in the south” says Angel Waldron, AAFA Health Resources Advocate. In fact, the top three most challenging cities for people with allergies are all in the south: McAllen, Texas; Louisville, Kentucky; and Jackson, Mississippi. "That region is a prime environment for weeds," she continues, and two of those weeds — ragweed and pigweed — are the allergens that people struggle with most in the fall.  

The AAFA uses three factors to determine its city rankings: use of allergy medication, the availability of nearby allergists, and pollen count per capita.The first two factors have remained primarily constant over the years — pollen count has not. 

This year, fall pollen is more regionally widespread and concentrations have intensified. The AAFA says that this is directly correlated to climate change. “This is our 14th year doing this research and the pollen scores have skyrocketed,” says Waldron. “There is nothing else happening other than global warming that is causing it. Increased rainfall and increased temperatures and milder winters all contribute to more greenery, more weeds, and more pollen.”   

Texas is of particular note this year, with three cities —  McAllen, San Antonio and El Paso — ranking high on the list. These cities also rank much higher than the last time the research was published in 2016, with San Antonio jumping from 16th to fourth place and El Paso jumping from 49th to 11th place.

This is because "the Texas climate is perfect for mold and pollen survival,” explains Waldron, and because the region is home to the Mountain Cedar tree, a tree that releases a lot of pollen into the air. “The [Mountain Cedar tree] pollen travels effortlessly by northerly winds from the hill country," she says. "This can cause havoc on people with allergic rhinitis [seasonal allergies] in Texas.”

Texas has also always had a problem with ragweed, according to Dr. Hethu Parekh, an allergy specialist at Austin Family Allergy and Asthma. He's also seen an increase in dust allergies in his patients, the result of late summer dust storms. Plus, he adds, “with more rain as of late, specifically in Central Texas, mold concentrations have gone up and we’re seeing more patients with mold allergies.”

While this might sound like a lot of bad news for allergy sufferers in Texas, don't start packing your bags just yet. “Pollen spores are so lightweight, they can travel up to 500 miles — so we’re not telling people in Texas to move,” Waldron says. “We really just want folks to become educated about their surroundings, consult a specialist and then find the treatment that’s right for you. There is not one cure for everyone, so it is very important to get individualized treatment.”

Want to see where your hometown ranks on their list? Click through the slideshow above to find out.  

MORE ON WEATHER.COM: A REGIONAL GUIDE TO FALL ALLERGIES

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