Spring is quickly approaching, and with that comes the absolute worst time of the year—allergy season. Pollen counts are on the rise, so get your Kleenex and nose spray ready, sniffles and sneezes are just around the corner.
We’re counting down the top cities to avoid during allergy season based the annual report of “Most Challenging Places to Live with Spring Allergies” from the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America. AAFA scores cities out of 100 based on pollen count, allergy medication usage and allergists per capita.
Did your hometown make the list? Some of the locations might surprise you.
Chamberlain Smith is a freelance writer based in Athens, Georgia.
Photo credits: 1. Ken Lund (CC BY-SA) 2. dconvertini (CC BY-SA) 3. Syracuse, New York (CC BY) 4. StevenW., Kentucky (CC BY-SA) 5. U.S. Customs and Border Protection (GOV) 6. Garett Gabriel (CC BY-SA) 7. Matthew Rutledge (CC BY)
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7. Oklahoma City, Oklahoma
Rounding out the list at number seven is Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, with an AAFA score of 83.61. This capital city has dropped in the rankings from number three in 2015. The main reason for Oklahoma City's consistent presence on the list is the city's high concentration of mold and weeds. Wind patterns also aid in the spread of tree pollen, most commonly from cedar trees.
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6. Wichita, Kansas
Number one for Midwestern cities and sixth in the nation is the largest city in Kansas. Wichita's score of 86.82 is derived from abundant tree pollen and warm weather that aids in pollen production. Windy weather plays a key role in the spread of pollen across the city. Wichita also experiences high grass pollen counts made worse with rain and contributing to the city's higher-than-average pollen count.
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5. McAllen, Texas
With a score of 87.31, McAllen, Texas, secures the number five spot, moving up one place from 2015. McAllen is located in the Rio Grande Valley just north of Mexico. Residents are exposed to pollen carried through the wind from local and very distant trees. Dry weather is also a major factor in the city's high pollen count because there isn't enough water to wash it away. McAllen only receives around 26 inches of rain each year.
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4. Louisville, Kentucky
Blame it on the bluegrass. Louisville, Kentucky comes in at a close fourth with a score of 87.88 thanks to an abundance of allergy-triggering bluegrass which has more pollen than any other types of grass. Humidity also plays a major role in the city's rapid tree growth, contributing to its high ranking. Luckily, Louisville has been steadily making its way down the list and no longer claims the top spot it once held in 2014.
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3. Syracuse, New York
Number three goes to Syracuse, New York, a city that moved up 17 spots in the ranking since 2015. A surge in pollen count led to the massive jump and an AAFA score of 87.97. The city's abundance of hardwood trees contributes to the prominent seasonal allergies affecting its residents. Warm spring weather and wind also increases pollen exposure faced by Syracuse locals.
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2. Memphis, Tennessee
Coming in at number two is Memphis, Tennessee, with a score of 94.74. This southern town is famous for rhythm, blues, rock and roll and unusually high pollen counts. Trees are the main allergy inducing culprit in this musical hub. Plants in Memphis thrive in the warm temperatures. This city is also ranked as one of the worst for people with asthma.
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1. Jackson, Mississippi
Returning once again to claim the number one spot is Jackson, Mississippi, with a whopping AAFA score of 100. Yep, you read that right. 100 out of 100. Way to commit Jackson's impressively high score is thanks to its extreme pollen count, humidity and abundant foliage. Add large amounts of rain into the mix and you've got a recipe for allergy-causing mold in addition to the preexisting triggers.