Top 100 Worst Cities for Spring Allergies

The Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America released its annual list of the 100 most challenging cities to live with spring allergies.

The Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America released its annual list of the 100 most challenging cities to live with spring allergies.

For people suffering from seasonal allergies, the annual misery of spring’s runny noses and itchy red eyes is inevitable. But patients living in some areas of the country fare better than others--and the best and worst cities for spring allergies vary from year to year. For the spring 2011 season, residents of Knoxville, Tennessee, are worst off, according to the Asthma and Allergy Foundation (AAFA).

Knoxville is a perennial favorite on the AAFA index, which ranks 100 metropolitan areas based on 3 factors:

• Pollen scores (airborne grass/tree/weed pollen and mold spores)

• Number of allergy medications used per patient

• Number of allergy specialists per patient

In 6 of the past 9 years of the survey, Knoxville has ranked in the top 10 worst cities. The runners-up for the honor of “2011 Spring Allergy Capital” were Louisville, Kentucky; Charlotte, North Carolina; Jackson, Mississippi; and Chattanooga, Tennessee. Southern cities typically dominate the higher ranks, according to Joseph Leija, MD, an allergist at Chicago’s Gottlieb Memorial Hospital, part of the Loyola University Health System.

“The worst cities are always in the south where the temperatures are warmer and the plantlife flowers earliest,” said Dr. Leija. Even cities as far away as Chicago, where Dr. Leija measures the official allergy count for the midwest, are affected when southern cedars, ashes, and oaks unleash their airborne assault on residents.

“The yellow pollen that will soon blanket the south will result in wispy, white cottonwood blossoms here in Chicago that resemble snow,” Dr. Leija said. Chicago’s ranking on the list rose from 83 in 2010 to 78 in 2011, a new high for the city. He predicts the worst allergy season ever for Chicagoans, who are already crowding his office with complaints that “the roofs of their mouths itch and they can’t stop their runny noses.”

More patients choose OTCs

In addition to ranking cities based on their capacity to torture patients with allergies, AAFA’s annual Spring Allergy Capitals report measures national prescription purchases and refills for allergy-related medications. For the first time in nearly a decade, the average number of allergy medications per patient is less than 1.0.

The record-breaking decline in prescriptions suggests that “patients are relying more and more on over-the-counter allergy medications since the scope, variety, and strength of over-the-counter medications today is much larger than in the past,” according to AAFA.

Based on the nonprofit's predictions, pharmacists who practice in and around the nation’s allergy magnets should prepare for an influx of patients seeking OTC relief from symptoms. The increasing complexity of products makes pharmacists’ guidance even more indispensable.

Pharmacists can access the full AAFA report here. For more information on counseling tips for asthma and allergies, visit these articles from the April 2011 issue of Pharmacy Times, which focuses on asthma and allergy:

  • The Family Antihistamine: All for One and One for All?
  • Top 10 Counseling Tips for Allergies
  • Asthma Watch
  • Is it Just a Cold or is it Allergies?
  • Pharmacist-Recommended OTC Allergy Products

To learn more about indoor allergens from AAFA Vice President Mike Tringale and Beth Corn, MD, Assistant Professor of Medicine at Mount Sinai School of Medicine, watch this video:

For other articles in this issue, see:

  • Bill Sharpens Divide Between PBMs and Pharmacies
  • Erectile Drugs May Get Flashy Makeover