Ear, nose & throat—A DispatchHealth look at allergies around the country

Nick Rosen, MD
Medically reviewed by Nick Rosen, MDFebruary 15th, 2022
mother with child requesting care on phone

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Spring and fall are typically the best seasons of the year for Americans across the country to spend time outdoors, thanks to the relatively mild temperatures. However, for millions of allergy sufferers, the signs that spring or fall has arrived may send them scurrying indoors. While everyone else is enjoying the foliage bursting with color, those with seasonal allergies are dealing with the misery caused by a stuffy nose, a scratchy throat, frequent sneezing and coughing, and itchy, watery eyes. Depending on where you live, the air is likely to be filled with a well-known allergy trigger: pollen.

If you wrestle with allergy symptoms, you’re hardly alone. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that up to 60 million Americans experience allergic rhinitis, the medical term for an allergic reaction that affects the nasal passages. This type of allergy can be seasonal—tied to irritants like tree or ragweed pollen—or year-round, for those whose respiratory symptoms spike with exposure to dust, pet dander, and mold.

What’s more, many other people have entirely different allergic reactions, such as nausea brought on by consuming certain foods, skin rash after touching poison ivy or sumac, and itchy hives after a bee or wasp sting.

Seasonal allergies vary according to where you live, and researchers have identified some geographical trends for other types of allergies as well. Here, we’ll take a brief look at allergies around the country. But first, it might be helpful to learn more about allergic reactions and why people have them.

What exactly is an allergy?

Every day, people are exposed to a vast number of bacteria, viruses, and other infectious organisms, and the job of the body’s immune system is to fight them off by producing antibodies. The antibodies release chemicals that can cause uncomfortable symptoms affecting the respiratory system, stomach, or skin. Sometimes the immune system cranks into action even though a substance that’s inhaled, consumed, or touched is harmless, and the resulting symptoms can be the same as if the body were combatting an infection. This is known as an allergic reaction, and the harmless substance that triggers it is called an “allergen.”

The majority of allergy sufferers have seasonal triggers like pollen. People who have allergens to substances that are present year-round—often indoors—are said to have perennial or chronic allergies. Common triggers for chronic allergies are dust, mold, and cockroach debris.

Worst places to live if you have allergies

Every year, the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America (AAFA) ranks the nation’s worst 100 cities according to seasonal allergy data. Two cities that frequently rank highly on the list are McAllen and San Antonio, both located in central Texas. Why? Because many residents of this Texas region annually endure “cedar fever,” a type of allergy brought on by exposure to pollen from Ashe juniper trees. Colloquially known as “mountain cedar,” these trees bloom and release explosive puffs of pollen from December through February. Therefore, unlike most of the United States, the primary allergy season for this region is the winter.

The AAFA listing also offers a breakdown according to which cities are bad for allergy sufferers in the spring and summer. Richmond, Virginia, tops the list for spring and claims the No. 2 spot for fall. What’s going on in the Richmond area that makes seasonal allergies so prevalent? The climate conditions there lead to an abundance of pollen-producing vegetation, including oak, maple, and river birch trees in the spring, grass in the summer, and ragweed and thistle in the fall.

Seasonal allergies are not the only types of allergies that can vary according to geography. For example, poison ivy, oak, and sumac are three different plants that commonly trigger allergic reactions when touched, or if inhaled during burning. Although all three can be found throughout the continental U.S., poison ivy is more prevalent in the East and Midwest. Poison oak, on the other hand, is rarely found in the Midwest, and poison sumac is typically found in states with wet, wooded areas, such as Florida.

For many people, allergic reactions can be prevented by taking steps to avoid known triggers, and they can also be treated with over-the-counter antihistamines. For others with chronic breathing problems due to asthma or COPD, professional medical treatment may be necessary.

Fortunately, DispatchHealth provides fast, convenient, in-home allergy treatment in many locations across the United States, including some of the most notorious places for seasonal allergies. Contact us today for more information.

For life-threatening and time-sensitive injuries and illnesses, call 911 or go to the nearest emergency room. DispatchHealth shouldn’t be used in a life-threatening emergency and doesn’t replace a primary care provider.

Sources

DispatchHealth relies only on authoritative sources, including medical associations, research institutions, and peer-reviewed medical studies.

Sources referenced in this article:

  1. https://www.cdc.gov/climateandhealth/effects/allergen.htm
  2. https://www.aaaai.org/tools-for-the-public/allergy,-asthma-immunology-glossary/allergic-reaction-defined
  3. https://www.aafa.org/rhinitis-nasal-allergy-hayfever/
  4. aafa-2021-allergy-capitals-report.pdf
  5. https://www.webmd.com/allergies/ss/slideshow-poison-plants





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