It’s easy to argue that the changing seasons in Western New York include summers that rival the best in the world.
They also cause some of the worst allergy seasons in America.
Buffalo ranks eighth most intimidating nationwide, according to a new report from the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America.
“The beauty of this region is nature,” said Dr. Roland Honeine, allergist and immunologist at Buffalo Medical Group. “The price to pay for this beauty is having worse allergies.”
Scranton, Pennsylvania, tops the list of “2022 Allergy Capitals,” an annual look at the 100 largest metropolitan areas in the United States. Wichita, Kan. And South Texas followed. Albany was No. 10; Syracuse, 16.
Seattle ranked last, just ahead of Durham, NC, Denver and several other West Coast areas.
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The ranking took into account spring and fall pollen count scores, use of over-the-counter allergy medications and the regional availability of board-certified allergists and immunologists.
Why did Buffalo rank so high?
The region has a sufficient number of allergy specialists, said Honeine, himself an allergy sufferer, who pointed to the climate as the reason.
Pollen-related allergic reactions are strongest when trees and plants bloom in the spring and weeds bloom in the fall.
The spring pollen season tends to last several weeks in warmer US climates, but occurs in a narrower and more intense window in Western New York. Later in the year, warmer fall conditions allow ragweed season to linger before a first hard frost puts an end to the pollination cycle. Both pollen spikes count, delivering a double whammy for seasonal allergy sufferers and traditionally pushing the region to the top of the national allergy rankings, Honeine said.
Climate change has further compressed the window between winter and summer, shortening spring conditions, he said, and lengthening milder autumn temperatures, further increasing pollen counts and adding to the burden.
“We’ve seen a steady increase in pollen counts over the past decade,” he said. “We have seen patients arrive with more and more symptoms. It gets worse every year. »
A heat wave in February 2021 that led to two pollen blasts last spring also helps explain Buffalo’s position in the latest report, Honeine said, as well as other differences the researchers have yet to fully explain. understood. All lead to greater use of over-the-counter drugs, another important metric that explains why Buffalo ranks high.
Pollen count is generally higher when it is drier and windier, and lower when it is raining. The pollen count was 2.2 out of 12 on Wednesday. It climbed above 10 on Thursday, where it is expected to remain for the next few days. It was expected to hit 11.8 on Saturday, according to pollen.com.
These numbers create the kind of conditions that create troubling symptoms that can go far beyond sinus congestion, sneezing, and watery eyes.
“People can’t wear their contact lenses,” Honeine said. “I have patients who have trouble sleeping because of nasal congestion. It can also affect concentration during the day. It’s not a cosmetic issue. It’s really something that affects your quality of life.
Urban density also helps explain additional suffering in recent decades, according to the 2022 Allergy Capitals report. This tends to have the greatest proportional impact on black and Hispanic Americans, who already have higher rates of asthma and allergies due to “a long history of discrimination in American housing policies.” concludes the report.
“Millions of people already suffer from seasonal allergic rhinitis, and pollen allergies are a major cause,” the researchers write. “If this cycle continues, we could see the number of people with seasonal allergies increase.”
Measures that can ease symptoms include medication, nasal rinses, indoor air filters, and spending time outdoors wisely, including wearing a mask if necessary. Contact your primary care provider if you need more support.