If you think your seasonal allergies this spring are worse than ever, you just may live in Louisville, Ky.
That's the city that tops the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America's list of 2014 Spring Allergy Capitals, the most challenging places to live if pollen, mold and other airborne allergens make you say, "Achoo!" Louisville moves up to the top of the list from the No. 5 spot last year, due to higher than average pollen counts, high use of allergy medications by people who live in the region and too few allergy specialists in the area.
“The river provides a basin affect that traps allergens … plus the temperate climate and precipitation encourages plenty of pollen growth for patients out here,” said Louisville allergist Dr. Gerald Lee. His allergy clinic has seen a 20 percent increase in visits over the past three years.
Dr. Nancy Snyderman, chief medical editor for NBC News, says a long growing season and new growth combine to make this spring especially sneezy, stuffy, and sniffly for the estimated 40 million Americans who suffer from seasonal allergies.
“Certainly there's evidence that because plants are growing in places that they haven't before, that the growing season is longer, which means there is a chance for a longer exposure to plants that might cause problems and it could make that worse,” Snyderman said.
Seasonal allergies include symptoms such as coughing, sneezing, itchy eyes, runny nose and scratchy throat. Snyderman says most allergy sufferers can feel better by avoiding the allergens. She recommends that people run early in the morning when the dew keeps the pollen from releasing into the air, for example.
“Most people can avoid the allergies by avoiding the problem,” she said. “[A]voiding a lot of outdoor activity when the pollen is stirred up in the air [can help].”
Here's a list of the top 10 cities — interestingly, all in the South — that are the worst offenders:
1. Louisville, Ky.
2. Memphis, Tenn.
3. Baton Rouge, La.
4. Oklahoma City
5. Jackson, Miss.
6. Chattanooga, Tenn.
8. Richmond, Va.
9. Birmingham, Ala.
10. McAllen, Texas
TODAY contributor Meghan Holohan contributed to this report. Follow Joy Jernigan on Twitter.