Fall is here, another autumn season of red eyes, runny noses and misery. Fall allergies are a nuisance and keep you from sleeping, eating or working to your fullest. Trips to the doctor, meds and piles of tissues only bring minor relief. It's just a matter of muddling through until they pass.
In 2020, fall allergy sufferers caught a break as the pandemic kept people inside, reducing exposure to pollen. But, last year, the severity of seasonal allergies rocketed back to pre-pandemic levels. On top of that, warming temperatures from climate change have extended growing seasons, spiking ragweed counts causing pollen to stay trapped inside air pollution over urban regions, affecting urban residents like renters.
Certain parts of the country suffer more than others. Some cities escape allergy season relatively unscathed. But, there are wide swaths where allergy sufferers truly suffer more. The worst cities for allergies are in the Northeast and north and south of the Red River in the Great Plains.
The Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America has released its 2022 Allergy Capitals report of the worst cities for allergies, and these are the top 10. Scores and rankings come from the analysis of seasonal pollen scores, over-the-counter allergy medication use and the number of allergy specialists in an individual city. (Seasonal pollen scores come from the risk of being affected by airborne pollen derived from pollen counts, allergy prevalence for each pollen type and other factors.)
At least residents in these cities have a bevy of options of indoor activities and attractions, where they can take refuge from the ragweed and some tips on how to manage. Among the 100 most populated metropolitan areas, these are the ten worst cities for allergies.
In 1775, Patrick Henry stood up at St. John's Church in Richmond and proclaimed, “Give me liberty or give me death." But, today, he might just ask for a tissue. The Mid-Atlantic city's subtropic climate and notable excess humidity can make fall allergies insufferable.
As one of America's oldest cities and the state capital, there are a plethora of spots to spend time indoors and away from pollen clouds and air pollution. To satisfy cultural cravings, hit up the Science Museum of Virginia, Virginia Museum of Fine Arts or Children's Museum of Richmond. For food cravings, find an indoor spot to enjoy local fave the sailor sandwich: pastrami, knockwurst, Swiss cheese and mustard on rye.
Connecticut is great for insurance, higher education, pizza and hamburgers, but not so much for allergy sufferers. Why? Blame air quality, which can negatively impact allergies. For New Haven, next on our list of the worst cities for allergies, the smog from vehicles traveling along I-95 combine with pollution from New York City and air inflow from the Midwest. This produces hazy, hot, allergy-filled days. New Haven, home to Yale, is slightly better than up in Hartford thanks to its open water adjacency
As a Northeast college town, discovering plenty of indoor activities is simple. You can find a lot around Yale. Stunning campus museums include the Yale Art Gallery, Center for British Art and Peabody Natural History Museum. You can even see an original Gutenberg Bible at Beinecke Rare Book Library. Be sure to pop indoors for dinner to experience two American classics. Grab a slice of “apizza" at Frank Pepe Pizzeria Napoletana. Or, discover where the hamburger originated at historic Louis' Lunch.
As outlined above, Connecticut's highway culture, New York's proximity and Western Reserve air currents combine to make it the Northeast's most challenging allergy state. While New Haven is slightly filtered by Long Island Sound, landlocked Hartford isn't so lucky. Closer to greenery and forests but also highly urban, the state capital is the worst city for allergies in New England.
So, when looking to get away from the sneezing and runny noses, head inside to the Wadsworth Atheneum, the nation's oldest public art museum. Or, take a visit to the Mark Twain House, where the renowned author wrote "Tom Sawyer," "Huckleberry Finn" and, of course, "A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court." And, you can complete your indoor evening at XL Center, home of the 11-time NCAA champion UConn Huskies women's basketball and former home of the Hartford Whalers.
Despite bitter temperatures and pounding snow, Buffalo residents still don't get a break from extreme fall allergies. But, much of that snow is lake-effect, which is frozen water blown in from Lake Erie and dumped on the city. Otherwise, Buffalo is actually a very dry and sunny place. The dry climate combined with stagnant water from lake storms combines to help pollen counts explode.
But, with average lows below 20 during the winter, Buffalo is a city used to spending time indoors and out of the elements. The NHL's Sabres have been chasing the Stanley Cup for a half-century, now at KeyBank Center for half of that. Museums like the Burchfield Penney Art Center help make Buffalo one of the top 10 best places to visit in the U.S. It offers a thriving restaurant scene, including the Anchor Bar, site of the invention of Buffalo wings. It's also known for restaurants, events and other attractions at Canalside, as well as its nearly two dozen theater companies.
The city of El Paso, one of the worst cities for allergies, lies in the middle of the Chihuahuan Desert on the Mexican border. Normally, that arid climate is helpful for allergy sufferers. But, high West Texas winds and extremely hot weather combine grassland pollen with desert dust and sand to bring misery to the Borderplex.
As the nation's third-sunniest city combined with extreme heat, many must go indoors for fun. Both the El Paso Symphony Orchestra and El Paso City Ballet are among the best in Texas. The Centennial Museum and Museum of Archeology offers exhibits related to the unique ancient history of West Texas. And, you can discover more modern history at the National Border Patrol Museum.
Like its Great Plains brethren, Oklahoma City is windy and mostly flat. Dry weather causes pollen and wildfire smoke blown in from Texas to stay in the air, lacking rain to wash it away. And then, huge seasonal Plains thunderstorms kick up allergens and spread them across the city.
And, Oklahoma City's size, the eighth-largest in the U.S. by area, creates an urban heat bubble that keeps air pollution hanging over the city. That's a recipe for bad allergy seasons.
At least residents get prepared. The Oklahoma City Underground is a series of pedestrian tunnels connecting 20 blocks of shops, office buildings, hotels and entertainment across downtown. Tunnel hoppers can travel from the Oklahoma City National Memorial all the way to the Oklahoma City Thunder's Paycom Center without seeing the sky or inhaling pollen.
San Antonio, one of three Texas cities in the top 10, is the seventh-most-populated city in America. That's one and a half million people looking to get away from itchy eyes and congested noses. Ragweed in Texas can grow taller than a person and produce a debilitating amount of pollen.
The best place to escape from ragweed-filled winds in San Antonio is a Spurs basketball game at the AT&T Center. Just three miles west is the Alamodome, home to UTSA football, the Alamo Bowl and four NCAA Final Fours.
When the game isn't in town, you can find refuge at San Antonio's two most popular tourist destinations. More than 2.5 million people visit The Alamo each year, and there are plenty of restaurants and shops in which to enjoy the indoors along the 15-mile-long River Walk.
So far south that it's on the Mexican border, in McAllen, allergy season really never ends, making it one of the worst cities for allergies. Hot weather in the fall and abundant pollen and flowering plants are bad news for allergy sufferers. And, there has been a steady increase in ragweed pollen in McAllen for a quarter century.
As far south as Miami, McAllen is also dry and hot, with averages over 90 well into fall. So, it's not uncommon for McAllenites to seek indoor time. Residents can hide away inside the one-million-square-foot La Plaza Mall, the International Museum of Art and Science or at the historic Cine El Rey Theatre.
The main reasons why fall allergies are so bad in Wichita are the same reasons why it's a hub for aviation development: It's windy and flat. Most of the nation's top aircraft manufacturers call or have called The Air Capital home. Sustained winds come sweeping down the plains with no hills or trees to stop them. Great for testing airplanes, awful for allergies. But Wichitans have adapted with plenty to see and do indoors.
Koch Arena is home to the Wichita State University Shockers basketball teams. Fine art in the city includes the Wichita Art Museum and Ulrich Museum of Art. And, there are special facilities like the Mid-America All-Indian Center, Museum of World Treasures, Kansas Aviation Museum and the Coleman Factory Museum. Pizza lovers can even visit the first Pizza Hut in the world, on campus at WSU.
Forgive Joe Biden if he starts sneezing when he goes back to visit his hometown this fall. Scranton tops the list of the worst cities for allergies.
In the middle of the Pocono Mountains, forests and grasslands full of ragweed and pollen surround The Electric City. Fall winds coming down from the peaks bring pollen clouds pushing out to the ocean. That helps Scranton experience higher-than-average pollen levels.
Even if Dwight from "The Office" — set in Scranton — believes, “The worst thing you can do for your immune system is to coddle it," you can keep yourself protected with indoor activities. Scrantonians, fortunately, have plenty to choose from. Some references on "The Office" include the Steamtown National Historic Site, Electric City Trolley Museum, Lackawanna Coal Mine Tour, Houdini Museum and the Marketplace at Steamtown mall.
While it's harder for allergy sufferers in these worst cities for allergies, fall allergies are no fun for anyone anywhere. And, since not everyone can pick up and move to a more allergy-friendly city, you can try some of these tips to help manage your suffering.
Ragweed and other plants like sagebrush, cocklebur and mugwort (yes, those are real) fill the air with allergy-causing pollen. Just one ragweed plant produces billions of pollen grains that can travel hundreds of miles. Geography plays a big part as to if where you live is a pollen capital or not.
If you live in one of the worst cities for allergies in the fall, you can consider changing your location to a more pollen-friendly city. Whether moving to another city permanently or just getting away for the fall, take a look at some other available apartment options today on Apartment Guide.