Allergies are, in essence, overreactions of the human immune system to foreign proteins which are eaten, inhaled into, injected, or touched by the body. Individuals sensitive to these foreign proteins can experience symptoms such as coughing, sneezing, itchy eyes, runny nose, and scratchy throats. More extreme reactions can include rashes, hives, lower blood pressure, difficulty breathing, asthma attacks, and death. While there is no cure for allergies, reactions can be managed through proper prevention and treatments including allergy medications, indicating the importance of growing our understanding of management regimens across regions, allergens, and demographics.
Approximately 50 million Americans experience allergic reactions. Allergy is the 5th leading cause of chronic disease across the U.S. among all ages and the 3rd most common chronic disease among children under 18 years old. While some reactions occur regardless of the region in which the sufferer resides—such as nuts, bee venom, cockroach and dust mites, animal dander, mold and latex—those allergens are easily identified and can be managed through avoidance or allergy medication. More difficult to manage are the outdoor allergens because of the seasonal/perennial aspects and the common condition of multiple allergies.
Outdoor allergens, also known as hay fever, occur when trees, grasses, weeds, and molds release their spores which are ultimately inhaled through the nose and lungs causing allergic reactions. The difficulty in managing these proteins for allergy sufferers comes from their seasonal nature (medications must be adjusted depending on whether the allergens are active and to the degree which they present in the environment) and the mobility of the allergy sufferer moving from one region for which they have medicine to another region for which they do not.
Louisville, KY Ranked #1 for Spring Allergies
The challenges of allergy season have led the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America to compile an annual Spring Allergy Capitals list, ranking the most challenging cities across the U.S. for allergy sufferers. Louisville, KY ranked the worst for 2014, bumped up from number 5 in 2013. This is not to say that Louisville presents the worst of allergens; it merely suggests that with all the factors considered in the ranking, Louisville presents as the most difficult city for allergy sufferers. The list is compiled through factoring in the city’s pollen count, the number of prescriptions written for allergy medications, and the number of board-certified allergists in the area. The top ten to make the 2014 list are spread throughout the southern region; however, the remaining mentions pepper the entire United States. Cities located near rivers and lakes seem to suffer significantly more due to the higher humidity, while mountainous areas fare the best (fewer plants and heavier pollen result in less airborne allergens) along with coastal cities that fare well because allergens are blown out from stronger winds.
Allergy Seasons in the West
Cities in the Western states experience tree pollination from February to June. The level at which people suffer from the pollination depends in great part on whether they live in the city where trees are not so prevalent and therefore present less allergens into the air, near the ocean where breezes blow the pollen out, or in the Pacific Northwest where native alder and birch trees render many people miserable. California’s oak and walnut trees rival Arizona and New Mexico’s cedar, ash and oak pollination, and grasses throughout the area, such as Bermuda, orchard, wheat, and fescue, compound the problem during May and June for residents and, particularly, for tourists who visit these attractions with little or no understanding of their own sensitivity.
Spring Allergies in the Midwest
Midwest states do not have the benefit of ocean breezes or mountainous regions, and the higher levels of pollution result in increased and more severe reactions. Trees begin pollinating in March and include elder, alder, birch, oak, elm and hickory. Merging into the tree pollen season, grasses such as Bermuda, Timothy, fescue, rye, and orchard begin releasing their allergens during the summer months and finalize the allergy season through the fall with ragweed.
Allergies in the South
Southern states begin allergy season in February. The warmer climate, longer growing season, and heavier rainfall leave Southerners vulnerable to oak, cedar, pecan, birch, and hickory trees, and common grasses such as fescue, rye, and bluegrass. Relief from the primary allergy season is typically followed in late summer by weed season and continues affecting allergy sufferers until the first frost.
Allergy Seasons in the Northeast
Allergy sufferers in the Northeast can expect their triggers to begin as early as late winter and continue throughout much of the year. Elm trees, hazelnut, maple, poplar, and red cedar trees join forces and begin pollinating in February, followed by grass pollens in May and ragweed season in August. While allergy season finally ends in fall, Northeasterners seem to have the most exposure to the most offenders, and the determination as to how much they will suffer depends primarily on their own sensitivity, humidity, and whether they live in urban, suburban, or rural areas.
Allergy sufferers must use caution throughout the year, particularly if they travel. Sufficient or unprotected exposure to allergens can leave sensitive noses miserable for much of the year and can prove deadly for those suffering with other bronchial conditions, such as asthma. Thorough discussions with your doctor and proper diagnoses can prevent extreme reactions and help you stay healthy and happy.
For allergy sufferers there are now many treatment options that reduce severe allergen reactions. Visit our Allergies conditions page for more information and to print or download a free discount for popular allergy medications.