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Frequently Asked Questions About Pollen Forecasting And Sampling for Allergy Alerts

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Where is the best place to live in the United States to avoid seasonal allergies?

There is no easy answer regarding where a person should live to avoid allergies. Unfortunately, due to the high level of transportability of pollen grains over long distances, pollen cannot be avoided altogether, nor can other allergens such as molds, dust mites, and pet dander be avoided.

Until recent years, desert climates, such as parts of Arizona and Nevada, were relatively safe havens to avoid airborne pollen, since native plants in these areas tended to be sparse, and consist mostly of ornamentals which were not wind-pollinated. Insects would take care of transferring the heavy, sticky pollen from one plant to another, keeping the air relatively free of pollen. However, with residential communities popping up throughout these areas, the situation has changed. The people moving from other parts of the country would bring along their favorite trees, shrubs, and grasses to make the desert more "like home." With those plants came the airborne pollen, and changed the content of the air during allergy seasons.

Many people relocate to avoid one particular allergen, and end up developing sensitivity to another type within the same family of allergens instead. It is the protein in pollen that causes allergies. Proteins within a plant family are very similar and often highly cross-reactive. It is extremely difficult to completely avoid an entire plant family when moving from one part of the country to another. An individual may move from a location with a dense amount of the box elder (Acer negundo) tree, a member of the Maple (Aceraceae) Family, only to find that their new location has plenty of other types of maple. After a few months or years, the individual may become sensitized (allergic) to the other types as well.

There really is no permanent, easy escape. General rules of thumb are:

  1. mountainous areas tend to have very little weed pollen (but they do have considerable tree pollen)
  2. forests tend to have little weed pollen, but obviously have enormous amounts of tree pollen.
  3. areas populated by humans tend to have grass pollen, as do agricultural areas
  4. the Pacific Northwest has a smaller amount of ragweed pollen than most other areas of the country (but does have standard amounts of trees, grasses, and other weeds besides ragweed)

* Remember that these are generalizations only. Further research into any specific location should be performed to either disprove or affirm these generalizations before assuming they apply.

One may wish to vacation during the notoriously high pollen season of a particular plant, but this may not be practical.

Monitoring levels and counts of the particular pollen types that affect you, and reacting accordingly by avoiding exposure as much as possible is about the only thing that can be done. Staying indoors during peak times, and medicating properly may be ways to combat the problem. Working with your doctor, you can develop a plan of defense that may help you.

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