Allergy sufferers know that the amount of pollen can impact their overall health, especially when it’s thick in the air. In fact, many people end up in the emergency room because of severe asthma-related reactions to allergens. This article will examine the factors leading to allergy symptoms and the cities with the worst pollen levels.
Is Pollen Really That Dangerous for People With Asthma or Severe Allergies?
People with severe asthma triggers need to get help as soon as possible. When someone has a brutal asthma attack, their airways close up and limit the amount of air breathed in. With severe asthma attacks, a person can die if help isn’t received right away.
Here Are The Worst Cities for Pollen
General information for what qualifies a city on a nationwide scale is available on the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America website. Rankings for the cities were based on how many diagnosed cases of asthma were in the area, how many asthma-related emergency room visits there were, and how many deaths were caused by asthma.
Let’s take a look at the 20 worst cities for pollen and those who are affected by it now:
20. Rochester, NY
If you live in upstate NY, you’ll have some issues with pollen if you have allergies and/or asthma. Of all of the pollen that circulates through the area, grass accounts for around 85% of the pollen.
Trees are also a problem, especially during March, April, and May. This type of pollen is generally considered less aggravating because it can be very fine. However, humidity is high during all warm months, making the pollen hang heavy in the air.
Ragweed hits the residents of this city hard as Summer comes to a close. It has about the same impact on sufferers as the grass problem. At this point in the year, the pollen is particularly dense since grass is still producing pollen in addition to the ragweed.
19. Toledo, OH
The Southwest Ohio Air Quality Agency lists trees, grasses, and ragweed as their main pollen problem. Toledo has a similar problem as Rochester, and the late summer months can be incredibly uncomfortable or deadly for some people.
Allergy/asthma sufferers will know the pollen count is high when their symptoms flare. If you want to check for the pollen level in Toledo, you can watch local weather reports or go outside and see if there’s any film on different surfaces. For those who park their cars outdoors, that’s a great place to see if you have pollen buildup.
18. Greenville, SC
Since the warm air encourages pollen production in Greenville for most of the year, the area can have many uncomfortable months for allergy and asthma patients. PollenLibrary.com explains that they consider Spring in Greenville to be March, April, and May. This means the pollen problems can start earlier and remain longer than in other areas.
Trees, weeds, and grasses produce pollen throughout the year. Yet in winter, the list of pollen producers is scaled way back from the ones that pop up during springtime. Even so, the entire year has plants that produce enough pollen to make living here tough for those with asthma and/or allergies.
17. Louisville, KY
Allergies and asthma are taken seriously in Louisville. In fact, Family Allergy and Asthma have two pollen counting stations, which have been certified by the National Allergy Bureau to keep track of what’s in the air at any given time.
Pollen is put into the air from ragweed, grasses, and trees. In an article by the CourierJournal, the city ranks at least at a medium-high level throughout much of the year.
16. Albany, NY
According to a local ENT doctor, the city has been seeing more and more people with complaints of allergy and asthma symptoms. He states that the root cause is the local climate, which includes a longer growing season, humidity, and increased rain. These all work to increase the pollen output from trees, grasses, and ragweed.
15. Orlando, FL
Airborne allergens are a part of daily life in Orlando, but it doesn’t make tackling the symptoms more manageable. This city has potentially aggravating pollen levels throughout the year, making fun in the sun challenging and uncomfortable.
According to a report from MyNews13.com, global warming could be making allergies worse, especially in warmer climates. The warmer the atmosphere gets, the more pollen potential throughout the year.
14. St. Louis, MO
St. Louis is like most other cities on this list. Its allergy and asthma residents have to deal with tree, grass, and ragweed pollen throughout the year.
One local allergist recommends that patients talk to their doctor about learning exactly what they are allergic to so that they can plan their lives to minimize exposure to that pollen. You can also check for the current pollen or allergy index to help you know what pollen levels are high throughout the year.
13. Cape Coral, FL
If your city contends with a humid climate and high pollen counts, you shouldn’t be surprised to see it on this list. In fact, WINKNews.com reported that a local doctor said she’s been seeing more patients than ever for people sensitive to pollen.
The pollen sources are the same as in other cities, but this location has the warmth and moisture that allows pollen makers to thrive. This, in turn, keeps pollen in the air throughout the entire year.
12. Richmond, VA
A news outlet in Richmond already reports that the allergy season is expected to be tough this year. WRIC.com reports that Dr. Jaimin Patel stated recent weather patterns indicate the city can expect a long and intense allergy season.
Warmer weather in areas with flatlands surrounded by mountains and hills provide pollen with the perfect place to remain even after becoming airborne.
Doctors around the city are already seeing more patients than ever trying to relieve their symptoms. With such an intense pollen season expected, doctors urge people to seek help sooner rather than later.
11. Columbus, OH
Columbus hasn’t been able to escape climate change’s effects on pollen and its impact on people. The Columbus Dispatch reports that warmer temperatures create an environment where pollen is more prolific than ever. This increases the pollen in the air and lengthens the time it lingers in an area.
Ragweed, grass, and tree pollen enjoy longer seasonal production in Columbus, while allergy and/or asthma sufferers must endure these changes. Just as plants adapt to climate changes, so do people and their caregivers. If you’re struggling with symptoms, see a doctor for help.
10. Baltimore, MD
In February 2023, WTOP.com reported an unusual case of white dust falling from the sky. While some may have assumed it was snow, the temperature quickly disproved that theory – the area had been having some record-breaking heat. The dust was, in fact, just dust.
Changing weather caused dust to blow in the same way the area has seen smoke from wildfires in recent years. The area’s unusual heat also caused the tree pollen report in late February to be recorded at a record high. So whether it’s dust or pollen, the combination of anything that affects air quality in any area has definitely earned a spot on this list.
9. Philadelphia, PA
The good news about pollen in Philadelphia is that it’s virtually gone once the city has its first solid frost. The not-so-good news is that the allergens are pretty much present from March all the way through until that big frost.
Springtime sees lots of pollen from trees, and this pollen sticks around longer each year due to rising temperatures. Grass pollen is next and often overlaps with the tree pollen, sending more small particles into the air. Finally, after a short stint of mainly just grass pollen, the ragweed joins it until a good freeze in the area.
8. Poughkeepsie, NY
If your region has the nickname “Sinus Valley,” you might have a pollen problem. According to ENT and Allergy Associates foundation spokesperson Angel Waldron, the issue in the Poughkeepsie area is mainly ragweed. Tree and grass pollen are still a problem, but the ragweed flourishes and releases high pollen levels in the area.
WYNDLY.com breaks down many of the pollen producers to be aware of in Poughkeepsie. They include oak, willow, cedar, and hickory tree pollen overlapping with grasses during the transition from spring to summer. Once the summer is winding down, the biggest pollen culprits include wormwood and ragweed.
7. Harrisburg, PA
The sheer number of asthma and allergy medical offices in Harrisburg is enough evidence that people in the city suffer from all kinds of pollen problems.
While people are outside during the spring, summer, and much of fall, they are exposed to the same types of pollen as in other locations across the country.
Medical Arts Allergy also indicates that winter can be challenging for anyone with pollen sensitivities. The website explains that being sealed inside a home with pollen in carpets, vents, or other easy-to-hide places can still aggravate allergies or asthma. This is especially true when the heating vents blow the air around a home.
6. Charleston, SC
The pollen count in Charleston is high. While the rest of the country is just starting to think about the tree pollen arriving in the next few weeks, the Charleston, South Carolina pollen count, according to Charleston Allergy and Asthma, is already recorded as being “very high.”
The site also indicates high pollen counts from pine, oak, sweet gum, and birch trees at the beginning of March. Even grasses made a showing, but not at high levels like the trees.
5. Fresno, CA
Fresno’s pollen count can be dramatically affected by the kind of winds, and weather changes the area is known to get each year. According to ABC30.com, a local allergy medical office reports that they’re already seeing more and more people due to the strong winds blowing through the valley.
One of the problems for people with allergies and/or asthma is that the winds not only transport pollen but also deposit it on clothing and hair. With pollen already in the city and blowing in from other areas, some sufferers say it helps them if they wear a mask.
4. Lakeland, FL
Out of the Florida cities that made this list, Lakeland is worse than the others. Trees, grass, weeds, and flowers make breathing difficult and irritate those with asthma and/or allergies.
According to a report from ABCactionnews.com, Lakeland not only has a large population of people who have asthma, but it’s exacerbated by viral infections during cold and flu season. So when you combine the almost constant exposure to pollen and different health problems throughout the year, it’s no wonder this city is the worst for pollen in the state.
3. Allentown, PA
For anyone living in or visiting Allentown with allergies and/or asthma, it’s a good idea to visit the Department of Environmental Protection website. It provides visitors with air quality information and the kinds of problems one might have if sensitive to it.
Even with the information and tips available, Allentown continues to climb higher and higher on the worst cities for pollen lists. Overall on the AAFA.org 2022 report, Allentown placed third in the estimated presence of asthma, the death rate due to asthma, and the number of emergency room visits related to asthma.
2. Cleveland, OH
Starting the year with tree pollen from oak, ash, and mulberry, then overlapping with grass pollen, Cleveland isn’t an area for anyone with severe asthma or allergies. Cleveland.com states that even though you couldn’t see that amount of pollen with the naked eye, it’s significant enough to cause problems.
Rising temperatures and the prevalence of dozens of active pollen producers can saturate the air in Cleveland, even if it’s not visible. So if you have allergies and/or asthma in Cleveland, you might do best wearing a mask outside or even inside if problems persist.
1. Detroit, MI
Even though the regular pollen season is shorter than in other states, Detroit’s pollen content packs quite a punch. From March to sometime in November, the pollen reaches a high enough count to make it to number one on this list.
Residents of Detroit have several trees that produce pollen from early March through to the end of May or the beginning of June, according to Wyndly.com. Summer grass pollens include bent, fescue, ryegrass, Kentucky bluegrass, and more.
As fall approaches, the grass pollens won’t quit. Instead, they’re joined by weed pollen, which is likely a significant contributor to the number one status for Detroit. Weeds include ragweed, sagebrush, kochia, marsh elder, orache, wormwood, and amaranth.
Know Your Allergies and How to Prevent Dangerous or Deadly Attacks
As climate change impacts how our health changes from year to year, the most noticeable changes affect people with asthma and/or allergies. If you suspect you or a loved one is allergic or might have asthma, make an appointment with your doctor to get the ball rolling on a diagnosis.
As pollen levels increase and aggravate more and more people’s respiratory systems, a single diagnosis and treatment can save a life.
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Written by Dana Hanson
Read more posts by Dana Hanson