The Asthma & Allergy Foundation of America (AAFA) recently announced this spring's "Allergy Capitals" for 2008. This is NOT a coveted award -- it's actually more like a booby prize if your city makes it on to this list.
Twice each year, once in the spring and once in the fall, the AAFA performs research to determine where the unhealthiest places in the United States are for people with allergies. They call these places the "most challenging" places to live. AAFA bases their determination for 100 metro areas on three main factors:
- Pollen scores (airborne grass/tree/weed pollen and mold spores)
- Number of allergy medications used per patient
- Number of allergy specialists per patient
I'm happy to say that my state doesn't have any, but then we don't have all that many metro areas, either (I live in Idaho). The Allergy Capitals appear to be concentrated in the Northeast, MidAtlantic, South, and eastern Midwest areas, for the most part, as well as the West coast.
In fact, 9 out of the top 10 capitals are located in the southern U.S.:
- Lexington, KY
- Greensboro, NC
- Johnson City, TN
- Augusta, GA
- Jackson, MS
- Knoxville, TN
- Birmingham, AL
- New Orleans, LA
- Little Rock, AR
- San Diego, CA
(You can see the full list here.)
Looks like, as allergies go, it pays to live in the country, far away from the "big city." I'd like to think that, but truth be told, I've been living in the mountain west for nearly 3 years now, 2 of them in pretty rural areas. And I can't say that my allergies are much better than they were when I lived in southern NJ, outside Philadelphia (which is the 25th most challenging allergy capital).
It's a fact that when you have seasonal allergies, you can quickly develop sensitivities to new things. So, even if you leave your allergy triggers behind when you move to a whole new area, that doesn't mean you can throw away your antihistamines, nasal sprays and eye drops! Sure, you might get better for a short time, but chances are, you'll soon be allergic to the trees, grasses, weeds, and molds in your new area.
Plus, if you have year-round allergies, there's a good chance that the indoor triggers you're sensitive to will still be with you no matter where you live. This is why experts no longer recommend that you move to make allergies or asthma better. It probably won't work.
So, you might be wondering, what's the point of having Allergy Capitals? Well, the answer is there are many ways in which the data can be used, from research to changes in how allergies are managed in challenging areas. But one way they shouldn't be used is to justify a move to a new area of the country.