Why is Louisville, Ky. the allergy capital of the United States?

Louisville, KY Skyline

By John Riehm, M.D.

Every year, the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America names the “Worst Cities in the United States for Spring Allergies.” And every year, Louisville makes it into the top 5. In 2014, Louisville was #1. This year Louisville was #2, behind Jackson, Miss.

Why does Louisville Top the List?

Bluegrass: Our famous bluegrass is one factor. While it may make Kentucky one of the prettiest places in the world in the spring, bluegrass gives off more pollen than any other breed of grass. Its springtime pollination is the cause for sniffling, sneezing, congestion, and elevated triggers for asthma attacks for those sufferers among us.

Ohio Valley: There are other aggravating allergenic factors we can blame about our region—our proximity to a river basin and the bowl-like structure of the Ohio Valley, our smog ratings, and the humidity that hangs over us in the warmer months– for instance. The effects of climate change also play a role, as pollen season in the spring and fall has lengthened up to 4 weeks over just a few years ago, and the weather is warmer earlier and later in the season.

The foundation calculates its rankings by looking at the number of prescriptions filled for allergy and asthma medications, the number of allergists relative to the population base, and the pollen levels. By these measures, Louisville will most likely, always be in the top 10.

However, the idea that people who suffer from environmental allergies can find relief by moving to a different city is false. Genetic factors drive environmental allergies, and people who move to other climates will usually develop environmental allergies in that area, too, after a period of time.

Since environmental allergies are impossible to avoid completely, standard medical treatment such as prescription decongestants/inhalers, allergy shots, and a healthy dose of prevention are the only proper defenses against springtime allergies.

So, the standard environmental allergy advice still applies:

  • Don’t open your screen doors for airflow, as this brings pollens into the house.
  • Keep your windows closed.
  • Minimize extended stays outdoors during peak pollen periods, and shower immediately after coming inside when you do.
  • You can check our website for the daily pollen count in Louisville, and The Weather Channel’s mobile phone app also often has pollen ratings listed for cities you may visit.
  • Keep current on your prescribed medications and shots.
  • As always, keep your hands away from your face, no matter how much you want to rub your itchy eyes.

Pollen season may be miserable for allergy and asthma sufferers, it’s true. The pollen seasons are usually short and herald a sunny, hospitable summer. Of course, many in Kentucky also experience Hay Fever symptoms in the fall months caused by ragweed allergens in the area. We believe our patients can still enjoy the outdoors and shouldn’t be limited by their conditions. Just know your limits!


Find Relief from your Allergies!

You don’t have to suffer from your allergy or asthma symptoms, schedule an appointment with one of our board-certified allergists and they can help get you on the road to relief.