If you’re planning a trip, you may be wondering how your immune system will react to allergens at your destination. How can you anticipate and prepare for allergy season when you’re on vacation in an unfamiliar city? What makes a city better or worse for people with allergies?
Allergens are everywhere, of course – no place is without them. For the most part, your allergens should not keep you from traveling to different parts of the world. But as you’re making travel plans, you might want to consider some factors that can make a city more allergy-friendly, especially if you’re unaccustomed to the area.
The first thing to consider is what you personally are allergic to. Generally, people who are allergic to spring tree pollens found in the East may experience fewer symptoms in the dry Southwest, for example, but they could find grass or ragweed pollen are a problem.
Another factor to consider is climate. A dry and sunny environment may be beneficial if you are allergic to mold or dust mites. Mold grows in damp, dark places and it’s less prevalent in places that get little rain and a lot of sun. Dust mites need moisture to survive and multiply, and the reduced humidity of a higher elevation can help keep them at bay.
A dry climate is also favorable for people with pollen allergies since pollinating plants need water to grow and spread.
Altitude is another factor that limits pollen production. According to the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology (AAAAI), pollen counts at higher altitudes are generally lower than those found in areas closer to sea level. Allergies to alpine trees and plants are much less common than allergies to plants that do not flourish at elevation. However, keep in mind that other pollen-producing trees and plants, such as the mountain cedar in the Southwest, may be present depending on the time of year.
If you’re planning a trip to the beach for spring break, on the other hand, you may find some relief from your spring allergy symptoms. California’s coastal cities like San Diego and San Francisco generally have lower pollen counts because ocean breezes can “rinse” allergens from the air up to a quarter-mile inland. San Diego has a grass and tree pollen season in spring and early fall, so if you have pollen allergies, it may be best to avoid San Diego during those times, despite its coastal location.
While there is no way to escape allergens completely, it’s worth understanding why some cities might be easier on your allergies than others. Best advice: talk with your doctor, know your allergies, develop an allergy treatment plan that may include medications, and examine weather reports and pollen counts at your travel destination in advance.
Reviewed by Michael Mellon, MD