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The Worst Cities for Allergies

Photo Credit: Alamy Stock Photo

By David Heacock

Allergies are a leading cause of chronic illness in the U.S., affecting more than 50 million individuals annually. The most common allergic condition, allergic rhinitis (or hay fever), affects more than 24 million individuals, including 5 million children, who are at higher risk for allergies. Other common allergic conditions impacting children include skin and respiratory allergies, which affect 12.6 and 9.6 percent of individuals under the age of 18. While residents throughout the country are impacted, some cities are far worse for people with allergies.

Allergies take a major toll on the healthcare system, with hay fever alone accounting for 12 million physician visits in 2016. A number of factors contribute to allergies, such as airborne allergens like pollen or pet dander, as well as sensitivity to certain foods and medications. The consequences of allergies can impact the ability of individuals to live a healthy lifestyle, as those residing in high-allergy areas often report lower levels of physical activity and self-reported health.

To profile the worst cities for allergies, researchers from Filterbuy analyzed data from the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America. Cities were given scores based on pollen counts, allergy medicine use, and the number of allergists in the area. Cities were then ranked based on their scores. Data on physical activity and self-reported health were retrieved from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Cities with the worst allergy problems are largely located in the Eastern U.S., with four of the five worst cities for allergies located in the Northeast. Cities with high allergy rates also report low levels of physical activity and health. Extreme cases include Dayton, Ohio, where less than 61 percent of adults report physical activity, versus a national rate of 74 percent. In the same city, 82 percent of adults report good physical health, versus a national rate of 87 percent.

Here are the 15 worst cities in the U.S. for allergies.

The 15 worst cities for people with allergies

  1. Photo Credit: Alamy Stock Photo

    Memphis, TN

    • Overall score (higher=worse for allergies): 78.43
    • Spring seasonal allergies rank: 15
    • Fall seasonal allergies rank: 19
    • Adults who report physical activity: 65.1%
    • Adults who report good physical health: 84.1%

    RELATED
    It’s important to replace your home air filters regularly, especially if you live in an area with poor air quality. If you get bad allergies or suffer from a respiratory illness, you should consider purchasing MERV 13 air filters, which provide extra protection inside your home.

  2. Photo Credit: Alamy Stock Photo

    Las Vegas, NV

    • Overall score (higher=worse for allergies): 80.24
    • Spring seasonal allergies rank: 14
    • Fall seasonal allergies rank: 16
    • Adults who report physical activity: 70.1%
    • Adults who report good physical health: 85.8%
  3. Photo Credit: Alamy Stock Photo

    Dayton, OH

    • Overall score (higher=worse for allergies): 81.17
    • Spring seasonal allergies rank: 16
    • Fall seasonal allergies rank: 9
    • Adults who report physical activity: 60.7%
    • Adults who report good physical health: 82.4%
  4. Photo Credit: Alamy Stock Photo

    Riverside, CA

    • Overall score (higher=worse for allergies): 81.98
    • Spring seasonal allergies rank: 13
    • Fall seasonal allergies rank: 10
    • Adults who report physical activity: 77.4%
    • Adults who report good physical health: 87.7%
  5. Photo Credit: Alamy Stock Photo

    Virginia Beach, VA

    • Overall score (higher=worse for allergies): 82.35
    • Spring seasonal allergies rank: 9
    • Fall seasonal allergies rank: 143
    • Adults who report physical activity: 76.6%
    • Adults who report good physical health:89.8%
  6. Photo Credit: Alamy Stock Photo

    Pittsburgh, PA

    • Overall score (higher=worse for allergies): 85.11
    • Spring seasonal allergies rank: 10
    • Fall seasonal allergies rank: 6
    • Adults who report physical activity: 75.6%
    • Adults who report good physical health: 88.1%
  7. Photo Credit: Alamy Stock Photo

    Oklahoma City, OK

    • Overall score (higher=worse for allergies): 86.12
    • Spring seasonal allergies rank: 8
    • Fall seasonal allergies rank: 5
    • Adults who report physical activity: 67.6%
    • Adults who report good physical health: 85.6%
  8. Photo Credit: Alamy Stock Photo

    Bridgeport, CT

    • Overall score (higher=worse for allergies): 86.68
    • Spring seasonal allergies rank: 6
    • Fall seasonal allergies rank: 13
    • Adults who report physical activity: 70.9%
    • Adults who report good physical health: 87.3%
  9. Photo Credit: Alamy Stock Photo

    San Antonio, TX

    • Overall score (higher=worse for allergies): 87.21
    • Spring seasonal allergies rank: 12
    • Fall seasonal allergies rank: 4
    • Adults who report physical activity: 65.7%
    • Adults who report good physical health: 86.7%
  10. Photo Credit: Alamy Stock Photo

    New Haven, CT

    • Overall score (higher=worse for allergies):
    • Spring seasonal allergies rank:
    • Fall seasonal allergies rank:
    • Adults who report physical activity:
    • Adults who report good physical health:
  11. Photo Credit: Alamy Stock Photo

    McAllen, TX

    • Overall score (higher=worse for allergies): 87.52
    • Spring seasonal allergies rank: 11
    • Fall seasonal allergies rank: 3
    • Adults who report physical activity: 65.6%
    • Adults who report good physical health: 85.8%
  12. Photo Credit: Alamy Stock Photo

    Hartford, CT

    • Overall score (higher=worse for allergies): 90.14
    • Spring seasonal allergies rank: 4
    • Fall seasonal allergies rank: 8
    • Adults who report physical activity: 66.2%
    • Adults who report good physical health: 85.5%
  13. Photo Credit: Alamy Stock Photo

    Springfield, MA

    • Overall score (higher=worse for allergies): 90.45
    • Spring seasonal allergies rank: 3
    • Fall seasonal allergies rank: 7
    • Adults who report physical activity: 66.1%
    • Adults who report good physical health: 83.3%
  14. Photo Credit: Alamy Stock Photo

    Scranton, PA

    • Overall score (higher=worse for allergies): 98.53
    • Spring seasonal allergies rank: 2
    • Fall seasonal allergies rank: 1
    • Adults who report physical activity: 70.2%
    • Adults who report good physical health: 84.1%
  15. Photo Credit: Alamy Stock Photo

    Richmond, VA

    • Overall score (higher=worse for allergies): 100.00
    • Spring seasonal allergies rank: 1
    • Fall seasonal allergies rank: 2
    • Adults who report physical activity: 71.7%
    • Adults who report good physical health: 87.0%

Allergy ranking data in this report are from the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America’s 2020 Allergy Capitals report, which was conducted at the MSA level. The rankings are based on three factors: 1) pollen counts, 2) use of allergy medicine, and 3) the number of board-certified allergists in each location. Higher scores corresponded to a location being worse for allergies.

For the purpose of this analysis, the MSA-level allergy statistics were assigned to their corresponding principal cities and combined with statistics on physical activity and health from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s500 Cities Project. Only the principal cities of the 100 most-populated metropolitan statistical areas in the contiguous 48 states were included in the analysis.

Approximately 15 percent of the U.S. population suffers from allergies. With increases in allergy diagnoses,especially among children, it is important that preventive strategies are taken to reduce their impact. Some strategies include monitoring pollen counts and avoiding outdoor activities on high pollen count days, wearing a mask when doing yard work, and using (and frequently changing) allergy-friendly air filters. For those with severe allergy problems it is important to consult with a physician ahead of allergy season, while also becoming familiar with over-the-counter allergy treatments such as antihistamines and nasal sprays that relieve allergy symptoms.