ACROSS America — If you spend a lot of your time sneezing and battling allergies, you have something in common with about 50 million other Americans. And a new report explores the 100 metro areas ranked as America’s allergy capitals.
The Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America’s 2022 report on the most challenging places to live with allergies says that if you live in Scranton, Pennsylvania, and have allergies, life can be fairly miserable.
The top 10 allergy capitals are:
- Scranton, Pennsylvania
- Wichita, Kansas
- McAllen, Texas
- Richmond, Virginia
- San Antonio, Texas
- Oklahoma City, Oklahoma
- Hartford, Connecticut
- Buffalo, New York
- New Haven, Connecticut
- Albany, New York
Tree pollen is most often what’s making allergy sufferers miserable right now. Trees will continue to produce pollen through May in most of the United States, and the tree and grass pollen seasons often overlap.
Among the trees that cause the most problems: alder, ash, aspen, beech, birch, box elder, cedar, cottonwood, elm, hickory, mountain elder, mulberry, oak, olive, pecan, poplar and willow.
In the fall, most allergy problems stem from pollen-packed ragweed. One ragweed plant can produce billions of light, dry pollen grains that can travel hundreds of miles, according to the report.
Other weeds to watch out for: burning bush, cocklebur, lamb’s quarters, mugwort, pigweed, Russian thistle and sagebrush.
The Asthma and Allergy Foundation cited research showing climate change puts every American’s health at risk, but those at greater risk include people with diseases such as asthma. The research shows climate change has resulted in extended growing seasons, which result in longer and more intense allergy seasons, the report said.
So-called “urban heat islands” already can be several degrees hotter, a trend scientists expect to continue. These areas are most often located near freeways, power plants and factories, and air pollution and pollen can combine for miserable breathing conditions.
In fact, one Environmental Protection Agency study on ragweed pollen found it can be seven times higher in a city that’s about 4 degrees hotter and with 30 percent more air pollution than surrounding rural areas.
Black and Hispanic populations are disproportionately affected because of a long history of housing policies “that discriminate against these groups,” the report said.
“These policies have pushed people of color to live in undesirable neighborhoods with greater environmental and social risks,” the report continued. “As a result of systemic racism in US policies, governance, and culture, racial and ethnic minority populations are more vulnerable to the health impacts of climate change.”
The Asthma and Allergy Foundation said the findings are a call to local community leaders to address the challenges of climate change and increase access to specialized care.
The 2022 Allergy Capitals ranking of the 100-most populated metropolitan areas is based on seasonal pollen scores from the IQVIA Allergy Activity Notification Program database