10 Worst Cities for Allergies

1. Louisville, KY It’s the home of “the most exciting two minutes in sports”—the Kentucky Derby—and now it’s the worst place to live if you have seasonal allergies. Louisville tops the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America’s 2009 list of worst places to live with allergies, thanks to high levels of pollen and allergens from the area’s fertile soil and green rolling hills. In fact, the whole state may be a tricky place to live since sister city Lexington topped last year’s list.

2. Knoxville, TN Surrounded by the Appalachian Ridge and Valley Province, Knoxville has a humid subtropical climate that encourages the growth of mold. Particularly prevalent from July to late summer, mold causes allergic reactions such as sneezing, itching, nasal discharge, congestion and dry, scaling skin. The best ways to prevent mold allergens in your house are to use central air-conditioning with a HEPA filter to trap spores and to be vigilant about reducing any dampness.

3. Charlotte, NC Based on its employment opportunities, low crime rates and affordable housing, Charlotte was named the best place to live in America by Relocate-America.com in 2008. But based on allergen levels, it’s the third worst in the United States. Located in the nation’s humid subtropical climate zone, Charlotte also struggles with high levels of smog, according to the American Lung Association. The combination of smog and allergens, known as “smollen,” has been shown to worsen allergic reactions, according to Ross Chang, M.D., of the B.C. Society of Allergy and Immunology in Vancouver.

4. Madison, WI “The City of Four Lakes” is one of the fastest-growing cities in Wisconsin. Madison’s fame as a city surrounded by water makes for humid conditions. Humidity does not cause allergies, but it does contribute to proliferation of some types of allergens, such as certain mold spores. Allergy sufferers should try to stay indoors during peak allergen hours. Allergen levels generally peak daily from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.

5. Wichita, KS Located on the Arkansas River, Wichita calls itself the “Air Capital of the World,” due to its ties to aircraft manufacturers, but allergy sufferers might disagree with that label. Allergens fill the air thanks to Wichita’s sunny, fertile climate. The best ways to prevent allergic reactions to outdoor allergens is to keep the windows in your house and car closed with the air conditioner on, change and wash your clothes after spending time outside, and shower and wash your hair immediately after being outdoors to remove pollen.

6. McAllen, TX Only five miles from the U.S.-Mexico border and the Rio Grande River, McAllen is nicknamed the “City of Palms.” Deciduous trees, including the Rio Grande ash, cedar elm, sugarberry and honey mesquite, are the dominant form of vegetation. Minimize your exposure to these trees by planning the landscape of your property, planning your time outside to coincide with times of low pollen count and keeping up with the local pollen index.

7. Greensboro, NC Greensboro is the second city in North Carolina to make the list. Despite being a beautiful city, allergy sufferers from Greensboro may consider going on vacation to escape the peak pollen season. Traveling to another location may help allergy sufferers enjoy the warm weather and beautiful outdoors during the spring and summer.

8. Dayton, OH In the Miami River Valley, Dayton’s seasons are dominated by hot, muggy summers and cold, dry winters. This humid climate is perfect for the growth of mold, mildew and pollen-dispersing trees and plants. To avoid exposure to mold, limit activities such as gardening, mowing the lawn, working with compost or raking leaves when the mold count is high.

9. Little Rock, AR Tree pollen fills the city during the spring, thanks to Little Rock's proximity to the Ouachita Mountains. Among the earliest pollen producers, trees may release their pollen as soon as January in the southern states. Trees that cause allergic reactions include cedar, elm, hickory, olive, pecan, sycamore and walnut.

10. Augusta, GA Famed for hosting the annual PGA Masters tournament, Augusta is located about halfway up the Savannah River and boasts beautiful lawns and gardens. To maintain your own garden without triggering your allergies, use flowers that are less likely to release airborne pollen, like colorful begonias, daffodils and sunflowers. Safer, low-allergy trees include apple, cherry, dogwood, magnolia or red maple, and fill out your shrubbery with azalea, hibiscus or hydrangea.