Here Are the 10 Worst Cities for People with Allergies

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We don’t have to tell you that allergy season has arrived. With every blow, your coworkers’ and family members’ runny noses trumpet the return of high pollen counts. Allergies affect more than 50 million Americans—but some get hit worse than others. The Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America just released its annual list [PDF] of the most challenging places to live with allergies.

The rankings are based not only on pollen count, measured in pollen grains per cubic meter of air, but also on the number of allergy medications each resident takes and the ratio of local board-certified allergists to patients.

Here are the top 10:

10. Buffalo, New York
9. Knoxville, Tennessee
8. Providence, Rhode Island
7. Oklahoma City, Oklahoma
6. Wichita, Kansas
5. McAllen, Texas
4. Louisville, Kentucky
3. Syracuse, New York
2. Memphis, Tennessee
1. Jackson, Mississippi, which was also #1 last year. 

But we’re not just here to bring you down. Even if you live in one of these gold-dust-covered cities, there are things you can do to ease your suffering.

The first step is to see a doctor. “It's important to see a health care professional early, before the season hits full force,” allergist Purvi Parikh said in an Asthma and Allergy Foundation press statement [PDF]. That way you can be “armed with the tools and medicines that provide the most effective symptom relief for you and your family." There are lots of prescription and over-the-counter medications on the market these days, and the sooner you find the right one for you, the better off you’ll be.

The other thing you can do is minimize your pollen exposure as much as possible. We’re not telling you to stay inside all spring, but you can try to time your outdoor activities to less pollen-heavy hours. Prime time for pollen is from 5 to 10 a.m. It’s also worse on warm, breezy days and best on cool days after heavy rain. Avoid mowing your lawn, or, if you have to do it, wear a mask. You might feel silly while you’re doing it, but you’ll feel pretty smart afterward when you’re not sneezing your head off. You can also change your clothes and wash your face and hands as soon as you come inside. These things won’t cure your allergies, but they will help soften the blow.