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Scranton claims top spot for seasonal allergy suffering

The treehouse at Nay Aug Park in Scranton
WVIA Photo
The treehouse at Nay Aug Park in Scranton

If you think your seasonal allergies have gotten worse, you may not be wrong - especially if you live in the Scranton area.

For the second year running, the 2022 Allergy Capitals Report by the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America named Scranton the number one most difficult place in the country to live with seasonal allergies.

Sanez Eftekhari, Vice President of Corporate Affairs and Research with the group, said Scranton owes the ranking mainly to the area’s high spring and fall pollen counts.

“For whatever reason, Scranton is high in both the spring pollen and the fall pollen,” she said. “In the spring, it's a lot of trees that are pollinating, and in the fall, it's a lot of weeds, mostly ragweed. So for some reason, they seem to be culminating in the Scranton area.”

When Dr. Rachna Saxena, public health coordinator for the city of Scranton, saw the report, she took it as an opportunity to educate the public about ways to make living with seasonal allergies more bearable.

With the help of Lackawanna County epidemiologist Dr. Sabine Charles, the Wilkes-Barre health department and the UNC Youth Club of Scranton, Saxena created a public service announcement to accompany brochures and flyers with allergy tips such as keeping your house and car clean and removing your shoes when you come inside.

“One of the ways we can prevent it is by avoiding those triggers,” she said. “It might be pollen, animal dander, mold, cockroaches, dust mites…so sometimes you might have to go to an allergist to figure those things out.”

Scranton may claim the report’s top spot, but Eftekhari said aspects of climate change, particularly warmer temperatures, are making pollen allergy season worse no matter where you live.

“It’s correlated with a lot of the climate emergencies. As the temperatures get warmer, the pollinating seasons start earlier and they also last longer,” she said. “So people are being exposed to pollen for longer periods of time.”

Scranton is the only Pennsylvania city in the report’s top 10. The next Pennsylvania city on the list, Allentown, is ranked as the 24th most challenging place to live with seasonal allergies. Pittsburgh came in 26th, Philadelphia is in 40th and Harrisburg ranked at 73 among the reports 100 “allergy capitals.”

Eftekhari said the report’s goal isn’t to tell people where they should or shouldn’t live to avoid pollen, but to raise awareness of allergy issues and help people prepare for pollen allergy season.

“Be proactive. You can take steps with different treatment options … and you can also just take steps in your home,” she said. “Even minor things like removing your shoes, when you enter the home or removing your jacket … making sure that when your pets come in from outside, you're kind of wiping the pollen off of their fur, little steps like that in your home can really reduce the exposure.”

Sarah Scinto is the local host of All Things Considered on WVIA. She is a Connecticut native and graduate of King’s College in Wilkes-Barre, and has previously covered Northeastern Pennsylvania for The Scranton Times-Tribune, The Citizens’ Voice and Greater Pittston Progress.