Experts Predict “Worst Allergy Season”

Seasonal allergies affect an estimated 45 million Americans, and according to the American Board of Allergy and Immunology, we’re facing one of the worst allergy seasons in a long time.

For allergy sufferers, itchy, watery eyes, runny noses, headaches, difficulty breathing and more of the classic symptoms of seasonal allergies can significantly dampen the joy of springtime. But to help you plan ahead, the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America (AAFA) has compiled a list of the most challenging places to live for people with allergies this spring. The top 10 worst cities for allergy sufferers are:

2014 allergy season is predicted to be the worst in a long time

10. McAllen, Texas
9. Birmingham, Alabama
8. Richmond, Virginia
7. Dallas, Texas
6. Chattanooga, Tennessee
5. Jackson, Mississippi
4. Oklahoma City, Oklahoma
3. Baton Rouge, Louisiana
2. Memphis, Tennessee
1. Louisville, Kentucky

Two things will fuel what’s anticipated to be a grueling allergy season:

Favorable Weather
Because of this year’s sporadic warm days followed by rain and snowfall, mold may be a bigger issue this year in addition to pollen, according to the AAFA. “No matter what time of the year it is, and no matter what Mother Nature sends our way, people with allergies need to be prepared,” Dr. Clifford W. Bassett, M.D., medical director of Allergy and Asthma Care of NY and an ambassador for the AAFA said in a statement. Excess tree pollen is also expected, thanks to Mother Nature. Higher levels of pollen generally occur on warm, dry and windy days; lower levels circulate on calm, wet and cloudy days.

Global Climate Change
Higher-than-normal carbon dioxide emissions are fueling pollen production, telling plants to produce three to five times more pollen. “This is the physical effect of increasing greenhouse gases on certain plants,” Dr. Bassett explains. In fact, United States Department of Agriculture studies found that a single ragweed plant could be producing up to 4 billion pollen grains! “Not only is the pollen more prolific, it seems to be more powerful, supercharged,” Dr. Bassett explains.

What Can You Do?
Make a habit of checking your local allergy levels. Go to the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology’s National Allergy Bureau for up-to-date pollen counts. You can even sign up for email alerts or download a smartphone app that tracks pollen counts.

Wear oversized sunglasses to block airborne pollen from coming in contact with your eyes. This can help prevent redness and itchy, watery eyes. Accessorize from the top. Wearing a hat—preferably a wide-brimmed one—can help keep pollen and other allergens from landing in your hair and eyes. Showering at night also helps to remove pollen from your skin and eliminates the transfer of pollen to your bed.