Next time you’re feeling crabby about the rain interrupting your spring plans, think about this: Seattle has been named the best (or “least challenging”) U.S. city to live for people with seasonal allergies — and that’s due to our rain.
The 2022 Asthma and Allergy Foundation report looked at 100 U.S. cities, comparing their spring and fall pollen scores, the amount of over-the-counter allergy medicines used and the availability of board-certified allergists/immunologists.
Durham, North Carolina, San Francisco and San Jose, California, and Portland ranked second through fifth, respectively, as the least challenging cities to live with seasonal allergies.
The report named Scranton, Pennsylvania, the most challenging American city for people with seasonal allergies.
Dr. Jan Agosti, an infectious-disease specialist affiliated with UW Medicine, said Seattle can probably thank its rain for the ranking.
“It keeps the pollen down and clears the air,” she said.
But even with that, we still get pollen and people with allergies can feel it.
As soon as we get just a few more warm days, evergreen trees — cedars, junipers, alders and birches — will start their annual reproductive ritual and release lots of pollen, she said.
Pollen has a harder time circulating in rainy, windless weather, which reduces allergy symptoms. But on warm, windy, dry days, it goes everywhere and leaves a fine powdery film on everything.
Those are the days during which people who are sensitive will get itchy, swollen eyes, runny noses, scratchy throats and even headaches.
To deal with allergy season, Agosti recommends a couple of strategies.
First, look at a pollen index, which on Wednesday showed Seattle had a moderate amount of tree pollen, mostly from alders. When it goes up, allergies act up, Agosti said.
Second, “those good old face masks? Keep them up,” she said. It’s now socially acceptable to wear them and while high filtered masks are best, even the plain old cloth ones help, she said. Sunglasses and eye glasses help, too.
“Anything that keeps it out of your nose and eyes,” Agosti said.
In the car, keep the windows closed and the air on recirculate.
At home, use high efficiency air purifiers with HEPA (not electrostatic) filters in any room you spend time in, Agosti said.
It can be a big investment but they’re worth it, said Agosti, because they filter out irritants from wildfire smoke when a charcoal filter is used and keep dust down.
Dust often and get rid of, or pack up, the stuffed animals, extra pillows and down blankets that collect pollen and dust.
Try over-the-counter antihistamines and nasal steroids. Agosti said there are some really good ones out there. Try a neti pot using water that’s been boiled, then cooled and add 1/8 teaspoon of salt.
Get allergy tested “so you know what your triggers are so can up your game,” she said. “There are cool new treatments so it’s definitely worth looking into if the basic steps aren’t solving the problem.”