by William F. Morgan, M.D.
Many people move to Arizona in hope that their allergies will improve or go away. This advice is often offered by their physicians or friends. However, there are very few scientific studies which address moving to help allergies or asthma.
In 1971, J.M. Smith published a paper in The Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology titled “The Long-Term Effect of Moving On Patients with Asthma and Hay Fever.” Several interesting points are made about patients moving from the Midwest to either the western or eastern United States. Patients moving west reported themselves as promptly all or much better 75% of the time. An additional 8% reported gradual improvement. Patients moving east reported themselves as promptly all or much better 29% of the time, and 41% showed a gradual improvement. If there was improvement after moving, the improvement was usually maintained over the years. However, many of their relatives, usually children, reported the development of allergies in the new location.
My observation is that patients who are sensitive to ragweed in the East, Midwest, or wherever, will continue their ragweed allergies in Phoenix. Because of the drier climate and less rainfall, there is not nearly as much pollen as in rainier climates. This is especially true when Phoenix has droughts during the spring and fall months. However, the mild winters and spring and fall months lead to year- round symptoms for many.
Finally, all large cities are plagued by smog. Phoenix is no different. Our increasing smog is leading to more irritant-like allergy symptoms.
There is a shorter pollen season above 5,000 feet. Many allergy patients do well in Flagstaff, Payson, Prescott, etc.
Patients with asthma triggered by non-allergic factors have asthma all year long. They will not be affected by the local pollen. Non-allergic factors include viral illness, smog, weather changes, exercise, and odors.
In summary, many factors are involved in allergies and asthma. Moving may solve some pollen allergies, only to allow other factors like smog to play a larger role. Patients with severe problems are not usually totally cured by a move.
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