Tears of Joy, Tears of Sadness… Tears of Ragweed

Allergies are up across the country, but some cities are worse off than others, according to a study from Quest Diagnostics.  

If you’re suffering from relentless allergies this season–you just can’t get your eyes to stop watering–but have a major meeting with a prospective client to prepare for, at least you have a one in five chance that the prospect will feel your pain.

Medical testing and information company Quest Diagnostics looked at more than 2 million doctor visits for allergies over four years and analyzed the results of blood tests to 11 common allergens: five foods (egg whites, milk, peanuts, soybeans, and wheat), common ragweed, mold, two species of house dust mites, cat epithelia (skin), and dog dander.

Quest found that allergies are on the rise across the country, but some cities are worse off than others. Because of its warm climate, the Southwest has the worst levels of ragweed and mold; as for pet, dust-mite and food allergies, there were no regional differences. The study ranked 30 cities according to allergy rates. The top 10 most allergy-prone cities were:

  1. Dallas
  2. Phoenix
  3. Baltimore
  4. Washington, D.C.
  5. Boston
  6. Philadelphia
  7. Chicago
  8. Cincinnati
  9. Atlanta
  10. Cleveland

Quest also analyzed gender differences related to allergies and found that the previously accepted notion that women have more allergies than men do may not be true. The data showed that men were actually more likely to test positive for allergies at all ages. The authors note: “a meta-analysis of allergy prevalence that reviewed 591 studies found that males made up 64% of people 18 years of age or younger identified with allergies, but women made up 65% of adults identified with allergies after age 18.”

If boys are shown to have more allergies than girls, it is puzzling that women would have more allergies than men. Quest said the reason for the discrepancy isn’t clear, but offered a few theories: a) girls and women are tested for allergies more often than boys and men; b) allergies in men have been underestimated, which means they’ve been potentially undertreated; or c) the criteria for allergic sensitivity may depend on gender and may change with age.

The study, “Allergies Across America: The Largest Study of Allergy Testing in the United States,” is available here