Could Where You Live Affect Your Allergies?
Madison, Wisconsin - Open up a magazine in the spring and you will likely encounter headlines pointing out the worst cities for allergy sufferers. Even Madison has ranked among the worst, according to recent surveys. But does that mean it is time to pack our bags and head west for a spring free from sneezing and itchy noses?
According to Dr. Mark Moss, UW Health allergist, unfortunately the answer is that there are few places in the country where allergies won't affect people.
"In the past it was said people could move to a dry, desert setting like Arizona and be free of allergens," he comments. "But what has happened over time is people have brought plants, grasses and trees and the pollens with them. So there's really no place you can be free of allergens."
But, depending on the type of allergy you have, there may be locations that offer some relief for your symptoms.
"When you look at national surveys for where the worst cities for allergies are, it depends on climate and season," comments Dr. Moss. "In temperate climates, certain pollens can persist for longer periods of time. Grass season is shorter in the Midwest compared to the West Coast, but ragweed season can be long in the fall with very high pollen counts."
In the Midwest there are essentially three allergy seasons – spring when the trees begin to bud and flower, late spring when the grasses are in bloom, and late summer to early fall when ragweed begins. While it's difficult to predict when an allergy season will peak, generally the more rain an area gets, the lower the pollen counts will be. So the late-winter melt followed by a cool, soggy spring is good news for spring allergy sufferers.
Seasonal allergies affect approximately 20 percent of the population, with most people developing allergy symptoms in their teens or 20s. But, young children – as young as two or three – can have classic seasonal allergy symptoms. And if it seems like allergic diseases are becoming more prevalent, it's because they are.
"There is an increase in the number of people with allergies versus even 20 years ago," says Dr. Moss. "The reason people are getting more allergies is a difficult question to answer but seems to revolve around living in cleaner environments and having less exposure to bacteria."
So what's an allergy sufferer to do?
Dr. Moss suggests that keeping the doors and windows closed and running the air conditioner can help. Avoid hanging sheets or clothes out to dry. And if you do work outside, change your clothes and shower or rinse off when you come inside. Over-the-counter medicines can provide some relief, as can prescription nasal sprays or even shots. Your allergist can help determine the most effective treatment for you. And surprisingly, managing your stress can help.
"Stress will make any condition worse, whether it's a headache or allergy symptoms," comments Dr. Moss. "While stress doesn't cause allergy symptoms, it can make them seem worse."
Date Published: 04/18/2013