Allergies Pollen Counts

Allergy sufferers may wonder where they can seek refuge from their aching, sneezing, coughing, and itching. Unfortunately, pollen, one of the most common allergens, is present in most regions of the United States. Researchers estimate that over 40 million Americans are sensitive to pollen in some capacity. However, some locations exist that are less irritating than others. These tend to be up north and near the ocean.

About Pollen

Many plants — including grasses, trees, flowers, and weeds — produce microscopic pollen grains for reproduction. The protein within each grain aggravates human allergies. Proteins within a plant family are very similar to one another, and often highly cross-reactive. Therefore, when people relocate to avoid a particular allergen, they often develop sensitivity to another type within the same family of allergens instead.

Common allergy symptoms include:

  • blinking due to dry eyes
  • coughing
  • feeling achy
  • sneezing.

When the immune system encounters an allergen that an individual is sensitive to, it produces IgE, an antibody that triggers the release of histamines. Histamines cause:

  • congestion
  • itching
  • mucous drainage
  • sneezing.

How Pollen Counts Are Measured

Daily pollen count is measured on a scale of low, moderate, high or very high. This count represents the pollen samples taken during the previous 24 hours. The report represents the risk of developing allergy symptoms.

Pollen counts usually rank the highest early in the morning on warm, dry, windy days and lowest on chilly, wet days. Warm air encourages pollen production, whereas cold air discourages it. Normally, the peak time of day for plants to release pollen is mid-day and afternoon, with the exception of grass, which releases most of its pollen between the morning hours of 6:00 a.m. and 10:00 a.m. Additionally, external factors greatly affect how much pollen is airborne at a certain moment, including:

  • air pollution
  • air temperature
  • humidity
  • wind speed.

Pollen Counts and Geography

Geographic areas near river bases, such as Mississippi and Ohio, experience higher pollen counts due to high humidity levels. Areas that are mountainous or close to shore often have relatively low pollen levels. Along the shore, the sea breeze of beaches helps reduce allergens. The Midwest and south United States typically have the highest pollen counts due to warm weather and lots of wind. Unfortunately, for those living in the south, allergy season lasts longer than in other areas of the country, due to these warmer temperatures.

Each year the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America comprises a list of the top 100 worst cities for allergies. Southern states fill the top nine spots, as they tend to have the highest allergy counts. The Foundation determines this list by measuring the region’s pollen count, along with the number of allergy medications prescribed and the number of board-certified allergists practicing there.

The top three worst cities for people with allergies are:

  • Greensboro, North Carolina
  • Johnson City, Tennesee
  • Lexington, Kentucky.

The cities rated as having the best air quality are:

  • Bakersfield, California
  • San Francisco, California
  • Spokane, Washington.

Resources

Dakss, B. (2006). Allergies: Year-round for many. Retrieved on March 15, 2009, from the CBS News Web site http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2006/02/27/earlyshow/health/main1348460.shtml.

Doheny, K. (2005). The allergy antidote: Forty million Americans suffer from seasonal rhinitis. Retrieved on March 15, 2009, from the Find Articles Web site http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_m0NAH/is_4_35/ai_n13479468.

Van Dusen, A. (2008). Worst cities for allergies. Retrieved on March 13, 2009, from the Health Central Web site http://www.healthcentral.com/asthma/news-269464-98.html.