What Are the Best and Worst States for Allergies?

More than 50 million Americans live with allergies, many of which are seasonal. Pollen is the major cause of seasonal allergies. Because climate change has intensified pollen production, allergy seasons have become longer and more severe.

If you suffer from bad allergies, you may be curious if living somewhere else could improve your symptoms. While allergens are everywhere, the best states for allergies are found on the West Coast, where seasonal allergies are least challenging.

This article discusses the best and worst areas of the country to live in for seasonal allergies.

Person with long black hair stands on a busy sidewalk, blowing their nose

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Symptoms of Bad Allergies 

Allergy symptoms can be uncomfortable and even disruptive to your daily life, especially if they are severe. Some of the primary symptoms include:

  • Sneezing
  • Runny nose
  • Itchy nose
  • Nasal congestion
  • Watery or itchy eyes
  • Rash

Common Causes 

Pollen is the most common cause of seasonal allergies. Different types of pollen peak throughout the year, but the most common are tree, grass, and weed pollen.

  • Tree pollen: Some of the most common types of allergy-inducing tree pollen include alder, birch, cedar, cottonwood, elm, hickory, oak, mulberry, pecan, poplar, and willow. Tree pollen typically peaks in the spring.
  • Grass pollen: Prevalent in spring and summer, grass pollen that causes allergies include Bermuda, Kentucky, rye, Johnson, orchard, Timothy, and sweet vernal.
  • Weed pollen: Weeds often cause the most allergy symptoms during the fall. These weeds include ragweed, burning bush, mugwort, cocklebur, pigweed, sagebrush, lamb’s quarters, and tumbleweed.

Allergies and Climate Change

Climate change is a contributing factor to allergies. As global temperatures continue to increase, weather changes result in a lack of airflow. This lack of airflow leads to higher levels of carbon dioxide, which, in turn, leads to more pollen.

Best Cities and States for Allergies

Each year, the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America ranks the top "Allergy Capitals" in the United States by examining spring and fall pollen scores, the use of over-the-counter (OTC) allergy medications, and the availability of board-certified allergists.

For 2022, the AAFA has ranked the following cities as the best places to live if you have allergies:

  • Seattle, WA
  • Durham, NC
  • San Francisco, CA
  • San Jose, CA
  • Portland, OR
  • Sacramento, CA
  • Denver, CO
  • Provo, UT
  • Phoenix, AZ
  • Fresno, CA

With one exception, all of these cities are in states in the Western United States.

Worst Cities and States for Allergies 

As with the best states for allergies, the AAFA also ranks the worst states for allergies, using the same criteria.

For 2022, the AAFA has ranked the following as the worst places to live if you have allergies:

  • Scranton, PA
  • Wichita, KS
  • McAllen, TX
  • Richmond, VA
  • San Antonio, TX
  • Oklahoma City, OK
  • Hartford, CT
  • Buffalo, BY
  • New Haven, CT
  • Albany, NY

Before Moving

Before you consider moving to improve your allergy symptoms, keep in mind that allergens are everywhere. Moving may not eliminate your allergies.

It’s also important to note that many plant families share the same or similar proteins that spark allergies, so while you may relocate to an area to avoid one allergen, you could develop an allergy to another member of the same plant family.

However, knowing your allergy triggers can help you determine if a move is right for you. For example:

  • If weed pollen is the main cause of your allergies, moving to the Pacific Northwest could benefit you, given it has less ragweed pollen.
  • If tree pollen is the main culprit, moving away from heavily-wooded areas to more coastal locales could alleviate your allergies.
  • If you move to an area with extreme rainfall and higher temperatures, you could develop allergies as a result of indoor air quality, such as mold growth.

Knowing an area's pollen count can help determine how bad your allergies could be if you lived in that area. A sampling device called a rotorod can help determine this figure, and assigns areas into three levels: low, moderate, and high.

Managing Seasonal and Year-Round Allergies

Living with perennial allergies can be uncomfortable and affect your mood, but there are steps you can take to minimize your discomfort.

Around the house, follow these tips:

  • Keep windows closed (for seasonal allergies) and keep windows open for perennial allergies (decreases dust mist and mold growth by increasing ventilation).
  • Wear an N95-rated mask, gloves, and sunglasses when gardening or performing yard work.
  • Change clothes after completing outdoor activities.
  • Remove shoes when entering your house.
  • Shower before bed.
  • Wash bedding each week.

Some allergy symptoms may require medications. These can include:

Summary

Pollen is the leading cause of allergies and can be worse in certain areas of the United States, mainly on the East Coast. Cities on the West Coast, such as in California, Washington, Utah, and others, are better for people with allergies.

However, allergens are everywhere, so even if you move to an area that is considered better for allergies, you may still retain that allergy or develop a new one.

A Word From Verywell

Living with allergies is often unpleasant. You may be looking for ways to improve symptoms and your quality of life. While moving to a different area may be desirable, it's not always possible.

It's most important to understand what your specific allergy triggers are and do your best to avoid them or treat them as needed. Talk to a healthcare provider to find out what steps you can take to mitigate and improve your allergy symptoms.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Does being close to the coast help with allergies?

    Living close to the coast could help alleviate allergies, because the area may have fewer trees or less grass and weeds than other areas.

  • Which states have a lot of allergens?

    States rich in trees, grass, and weeds contain a lot of allergens. These include areas in the Northeast like Pennsylvania, New York, and Connecticut. Virginia, Kansas, and Texas also have a high rate of allergens.

  • Does geography affect allergies?

    Yes, geography affects allergies because of the climate associated with different regions. For instance, areas with higher temperatures and drought can lead to more allergies because of the lack of airflow. This leads to higher carbon dioxide levels and, in turn, higher pollen levels. 

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6 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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