Dallas ranks worse than San Antonio for allergy sufferers

San Antonio may be a perennial pollen producer — but this year, it’s not even cracking the top five worst cities in the U.S. for allergies, according to a recent report. In fact, it didn’t even rank in the top 20.

The Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America released its top 20 “Allergy Capitals” for 2023 just in time for the first day of spring, which officially starts Monday. Texas’ two largest cities — Dallas and Houston — had the dubious honor of making the list, with Dallas being the second-worst city nationally for allergy sufferers. Houston was ranked 12th.

The foundation looked at the largest 100 cities in the continental United States and gave them a score based on five factors: the amount of trees, grass and weed pollen; use of over-the-counter allergy medications; and the number of allergy specialists in the city. The factors are not weighted equally.

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The Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America looked at the 100 largest cities in the continental United States and gave them a score based on five factors: the number of trees, grass and weed pollen; use of over-the-counter allergy medications; and the number of allergy specialists in the city. It also ranked the cities by pollen type. Below are the top and bottom five overall and poll rankings of Texas cities for 2023.

Top 5 worst cities in the US

1. Wichita, Kan.

2. Dallas

3. Scranton, Pa.

4. Oklahoma City

5. Tulsa, Oklahoma.

Bottom 5 US cities

96. Akron, Ohio

97. Austin

98. Cleveland

99. Seattle

100. Buffalo, N.Y.

Ranking of grass pollen

4. Dallas

10. Houston

11. McAllen

17. San Antonio

42. El Paso

71. Austin

Tree pollen ranking

2. Dallas

12. Houston

21. San Antonio

29. McAllen

54. El Paso

99. Austin

Weed Pollen Ranking

26. Dallas

27. El Paso

59. Houston

80. McAllen

96. San Antonio

99. Austin

McAllen was the third worst city in Texas, coming in at No. 25. Along with Dallas and Houston, it was given a “worse than average” ranking.

San Antonio, on the other hand, didn’t even earn that distinction — coming in at No. 37 gave it an “average” status. El Paso came in just behind the Alamo City at No. 39, also earning the average designation.

Austin was the only Texas city to receive a “better than average” ranking, coming in at No. 97.

So which city was the worst? Wichita, Kan., earned that distinction. As for the city with the lowest score, it’s Buffalo, NY

Although Florida’s worst city, Sarasota, missed the top five by coming in at No. 6, the state took seven of the top 20 spots. The report pointed out that “the burden of seasonal pollen allergies falls heavily” on cities in the southern and eastern regions.

The foundation also gave rankings based on pollen types, looking at the individual pollen types along with the use of allergy medications and access to allergy specialists. San Antonio came in 17th in the report’s rankings for grass pollen, 21st for tree pollen and 96th for weed pollen.

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The foundation has produced its annual “Allergy Capital” reports since 2003.

A Washington Post article citing the study said the foundation’s data for the past decade show San Antonio and McAllen consistently rank among the highest pollen counts in the nation. Other cities consistently producing high pollen rankings over that span are this year’s No. 1, Wichita; Oklahoma City, which ranked No. 4 this year; and Richmond, Va., which ranked just above McAllen at No. 23.

Climate change is making the allergy season come earlier, last longer and become more intense, according to an analysis by the non-profit organization Climate Central.

“We’ve had a whole bunch of patients come in with significant nasal and eye symptoms of allergy,” said Dr. Sanjiv Sur, professor of medicine in the section of immunology, allergy and rheumatology at Baylor College of Medicine.

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Pollen counts can be a valuable resource for someone who wants to avoid exposure to what’s causing their allergy symptoms, said Dr. Albert Wu, an allergist at the Kelsey-Seybold Clinic.

“Avoidance is very useful,” he said. “One way to do that is to check your pollen count and try to avoid the things you’re allergic to.”

Wu and Sur also recommend keeping track of the time of year when you usually have allergy symptoms. You can prevent or limit symptoms by starting to take allergy medications a few weeks before then, they said.

If you have a flare-up, over-the-counter medications such as nasal sprays and antihistamines can help reduce symptoms. Decongestants are also helpful, although anyone with high blood pressure or heart disease should avoid taking a decongestant.

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As for the recent period of rainy weather, it may not be all good news for allergy sufferers.

Although rain can reduce pollen counts, it can have a negative effect on symptoms, Sur said. Rain can break up pollen into smaller particles, making it easier for them to penetrate the lungs and other areas, he said.

“We think of rain as a good thing,” Sur said. “Well, there is a flip side to this where it can’t be so good.”

So what’s the outlook for allergy sufferers in San Antonio?

The Weather Channel’s 15-day allergy forecast predicts a moderate risk of allergy symptoms, albeit with high levels of tree and grass pollen at the beginning of the week.

AccuWeather’s forecast predicts high levels of tree pollen from Tuesday through Friday. It advises allergy sufferers to keep doors and windows closed, change clothes and shower after entering, and take allergy medication if possible.

Staff writer Evan MacDonald contributed to this story.

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