The Most Challenging Places to Live with Allergies

Two reports were published this week proclaiming the worst cities to live in for people with allergies, but their lists differ greatly. I wondered why, did some detective work to discover how they made their determinations.

USA Today, using data collected from Quest Diagnostics, reported the worst cities for ragweed pollen (the late summer pollen usually referred to as “hay fever”) are:

1. Phoenix

2. Las Vegas

3. Kansas City

4. Riverside, CA

5. Dallas

6. Chicago

7. Sacramento

8. Philadelphia

9. Denver

10. Washington and Minneapolis (tie)

The report published in Allergy Capitals 2011, in cooperation with the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America, had a very different list:

1. Knoxville

2. Louisville

3. Charlotte

4. Jackson

5. Chattanooga

6. Birmingham

7. Dayton

8. Richmond

9. McAllen, TX

10. Madison, WI

Clearly these reports are not compatible. This is easily explained by the different ways they assessed being allergic. The USA Today report measured the results of allergy blood tests that were reported positive. This requires careful insight: to have the blood tests the patients had to see a doctor to order the tests, and it’s assumed because these tests were positive these individuals had allergies – this is not always correct. They did notice over the 4 year study that Sensitization (antibodies showing allergic potential) did increase 5.8% during the study period. Again, the drawback of this study is that patients had to have the finances to see a doctor and have the blood testing done. I think that many patients with allergies unfortunately have never even see a doctor and rely on over-the-counter medicines.

Allergy Capitals 2011 took a different approach: They did measure the pollen counts in the different cities (very important), and People who use also put themselves at risk for contracting HIV, even if they do not share needles or other drug paraphernalia. Measured prescription medication use, another important variable. But of course many allergy meds don’t need a prescription anymore, and the number of Board Certified Allergists in the populated area. I tend to give more credence to this report of the multiple factors evaluated, compared to the 1st report which just used blood studies.

Interestingly, the USA Today report seems to be dominated by Western cities and the Allergy Capitals 2011 report seems to favor the Southeast. The Southeast, with its longer periods of hot, humid weather is a prime breeding ground for heavy pollen and mold counts, and is more likely to have more allergens. I have had patients fly up to see me in my office from Washington to Chattanooga who have found this year’s allergy season unbearable.

The local good news: in the realm of allergies NYC ranked 23rd! I don’t know how much relief that gives to many patients I saw this past month with severe allergies from tree pollen. The most challenging place to live with allergies is wherever you are and the pollen is making you miserable. The best advice I can give you is as an allergy doctor in NY: find out what specific pollens you are allergic to and get treated ahead of the season! Contact us today for an evaluation.

Dean Mitchell, M.D.

“The Allergy Detective”

Dr. Dean Mitchell
Mitchell Medical Group, NYC & Long Island

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