High use of meds earns Louisville bad name for allergies, which are becoming more common as pollination periods expand

Louisville is the second worst American city for spring allergy sufferers, based on use of allergy medicine, says the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America. Though the city has only an average pollen score and an average number of board-certified allergists, it has an above average number of patients who use allergy medicine, the Spring Allergy Capitals 2011 survey concluded.

Only Knoxville, Tenn., ranked higher than Louisville. Charlotte, N.C., came in third, followed by Jackson, Miss., and Chattanooga, Tenn. “The worst cities are always in the South, where the temperatures are warmer and the plant life flowers earliest,” Dr. Joseph Leija, an allergist who performs the Gottlieb Allergy Count, told research-reporting service Newswise.
Louisville ranked second last year as well, first in 2009, and 21st in 2008. In the past nine years the survey has been conducted, pollen concentrations have increased. “There’s a lot of evidence that trees, grasses and weeds are pollinating more, said Mike Tringale, vice president for external affairs at the foundation. There is also evidence that the pollination season is lengthening, starting 10 to 15 days sooner and lasting 10 to 15 days longer.
As a result, more people are suffering. “Allergy prevalence has more than doubled in the past 30 years,” Tringale said. “No one is really sure why. One of the leading theories is global warming.” Today, between 12 to 14 percent of people have nasal allergies.
As for why some cities are affected more than others, Tringale said he didn’t have an answer. Researchers will be looking at patterns and correlations next year in time for the 10th year of the study.
The study looked at the number of prescriptions that are written and refilled for all allergy medications, “whether eye drops, nasal sprays or oral pills,” Tringale said. It also looked at all of the over-the-counter versions of allergy medicines that are sold at pharmacy counters, which account for about 20 percent of all over-the-counter sales. Medications sold at regular check-out aisles and at grocery stores were not accounted for, nor were medicines sold at Walmart. “Walmart doesn’t give out data,” Tringale said. Though Tringale acknowledged the low percentage of OTC sales tracked is a weakness of the study, he said it was done in this way “to standardize the data between cities.”
Pollen counts were collected weekly “from thousands of different stations,” Tringale said. The American Board of Medical Specialties provided the data regarding the number of board-certified allergists. (Read more)
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