The record-breaking summer heat and the fall hurricane season are contributing to one of the worst fall allergy seasons yet, says Dr. Cliff Bassett with Allergy and Asthma Care of New York. These weather conditions have caused increased amounts of mold and pollen, particularly in the Midwest. Weather.com has teamed up with the Allergy and Asthma Foundation of America (AAFA) to present the top ten US cities with the worst conditions for fall allergy sufferers.
The cities are ranked according to pollen scores, with the most common fall allergens being ragweed, goldenrod and molds. A single ragweed plant, common to the Eastern and Midwestern states, can produce one billion pollen grains per season and warmer temperatures means a longer growing season leading to more pollen contact. In late summer and early fall, about 10 to 20 percent of Americans suffer from ragweed allergy. Other criteria for the city rankings include number of allergy medications per patient and the number of allergy specialists per patient.
Knoxville, Tennessee has been crowned as the Top Allergy City of both spring and fall. Allergists say that East Tennessee, situated in the Smoky Mountains, has a lot of deep valleys and inversions that hold the air pollution and pollen within the city. Early September in Knoxville is the peak of the weed pollen season, with the most common allergen being ragweed.
Second on the AAFA list is Dayton, Ohio – a city that has a lot of precipitation from winter blizzards, spring floods and summer rains causing “super bloom,” a steady and lengthy release of pollen, says Dr. Bassett. The end of the fall allergy season in Dayton isn’t expected until early November.
McAllen, Texas, like Knoxville, is also prone to bad fall and spring allergy seasons. The extreme heat and drought throughout Texas has caused the city to jump from #9 last year to #3 this year for fall allergies. "As you increase temperatures, carbon dioxide, and greenhouse gasses weeds and other plants increase their pollen production by as much as three or four fold," says allergist Dr. Bassett.
Humidity and precipitation from Tropical Storm Lee have made Jackson, Mississippi a worse place for allergy sufferers this year. Common allergens are white poplar, white sage, and wild calla. But the weather hasn’t only caused problems among allergy sufferers. "When the humidity rises, people get sicker," says Dr. Josh Phillips with the Mississippi Asthma and Allergy Clinic. "We see plenty of patients who are sick because they're sensitive to the high humidity, but don't necessarily have allergies."
Completing the top ten list (in ascending order) is Oklahoma City (OK), Louisville (KY), Wichita (KS), Madison (WI), St. Louis (MO), and Tulsa (OK).
Seasonal allergies cost the U.S. $7 billion a year in terms of treatments as well as lost productivity at school and work.