Spring has finally arrived, and with it, beautiful sunny days with light breezes whipping pollen everywhere. Yes, allergy season has arrived along with the robins and daffodils. Allergy sufferers notice it first, not because of the sounds of birds singing and chirping in the trees, but when they get in their cars to head for work, they see the bright yellow dusting of pollen covering the windshield.
Every person who suffers with seasonal allergies is sure they live in the worst city in the country for allergies. They would be surprised to learn that someone actually keeps track of this sort of information, and it is updated annually. The Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America (AAFA) has been tracking data on the worst cities to live in for allergy sufferers for 12 years, and they have just released their latest list of "Allergy Capitals for 2014."
The not-for-profit AAFA, based in Landover, Maryland, tracks 100 cities across America, gathering data on pollen levels, the number of OTC and prescription medications per patient, and the number of board-certified allergists per patient in the 100 most populous municipalities in the country.
The top 10 worst cities in the U.S.A. for allergy sufferers:
3. Baton Rouge
4. Oklahoma City
5. Jackson, Miss.
6. Chattanooga, Tenn.
8. Richmond, Va.
9. Birmingham, Ala.
10. McAllen, Texas
We will look at the top five cities on the list, plus number eight, Richmond, Virginia. It is noteworthy to mention that all the cities in the top ten list are located in the south of the country, with the exception of Oklahoma City. This must be a clue to the levels of asthma sufferers in the country
1. Louisville, Kentucky
Louisville has the honor of being the largest city in Kentucky and is the 16th largest city in the country. It also holds the dubious honor of being the top worst city to live in for allergy sufferers.
Perhaps it is the humid sub-tropical climate, and the typically wet spring and summers that give rise to high pollen counts, but pollution can be added to the recipe, too. Air pollution is trapped in Louisville's location in the Ohio River valley, making this city the 38th most polluted city in America.
2. Memphis, Tennessee
Second on our list of the worst cities for allergy sufferers is Memphis, Tennessee. This city is also the largest city in the state of Tennessee, and the third largest in the Southeastern U.S.. Memphis also has a humid, sub-tropical climate, and is generally wet throughout the year.
People can blame the number of oak trees in the city for their allergy problems, and from around March until the middle of May, the trees shed oak catkins, fuzzy little pollen "strings" that are seen everywhere.
A few more common plants that people in the Southeastern parts of the country suffer from are Japanese honeysuckle, Jimson weed and Johnson frass pollens.
3. Baton Rouge, Louisiana
Baton Rouge is the second largest city in Louisiana, and number three on the worst cities for allergy sufferers list. With a hot and humid sub-trophic climate and its proximity to the coastline, the city is also prone to hurricanes. As it is, rainfall averages around 55 inches annually.
Louisiana has some or the highest dust mite counts in the country, and because of the humidity, high mold spore counts. This has helped Baton Rouge to jump from 13th place to third on the list since 2006. Besides the elm, cedar and oak pollen, residents also have to worry about pecan tree pollen in this area.
4. Oklahoma City, Oklahoma
Number four on the list is Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. The 29th largest city in the country, it is the biggest city in the state. Located in the middle of the state, it is bisected by the Oklahoma River, at least that is what the North Canadian River is called within the city limits.
Oklahoma City is located in a region of the state known for its many hills and two species of oak trees, blackjack oak (Quercus marilandica) and post oak (Q. stellata).
Oklahoma City has a fairly long spring allergy season because the winters have been short and mild. In February, the mountain cedars start the pollen season, followed by oak and then elm trees.
5. Jackson, Mississippi
Jackson, Mississippi, located just south of the Yazoo River, is named for Andrew Jackson, a hero of the war between the states, and is the largest city in Mississippi, and has been since 1944. It comes in at number 5 on the allergy list.
One little known fact about Jackson, and having absolutely nothing to do with allergies, is that the city was built on top of the Jackson volcano. The extinct volcano, discovered in 1819, lies 2,900 feet below the Mississippi Coliseum.
In 2013, the city was at the very top of the list because of the severity of the season, with local red cedar, huckleberry, elm, willow and poplars being the worst offenders. They must have brought in some more board-certified allergists this year, which is great for all the allergy sufferers.
8. Richmond, Virginia
Richmond is the fourth largest city in Virginia, but has been an independent city, meaning it's not part of any county, since 1871. It has dropped in rank to number eight this year on the allergy list. The city lies at the fall line of the James River, and being a tidal river, will often bring flooding into the area.
Something unique about Richmond's location helps to keep pollution and pollen levels high, and that is the mountains to the west. They act as a barrier, stopping many cold fronts, while the open waters of the Chesapeake and the ocean contribute to the high humidity. This makes the city a cauldron of pollution and pollen particles during the spring and fall.
The city is doing much better this year, having dropped from top position two years running, in 2010 and 2011. The high score in 2011 was attributed to high pollen score, poor air quality, a lack of public smoking bans, high poverty and uninsured rates, as well as other factors. That about covers the reasons for the score this year, too.