Where should you live to avoid allergies?

Healthcare providers often get asked this question: Where in South Africa is the best place to live for people who suffer from pollen and fungal spore allergies? With many patients suffering from debilitating hay fever symptoms like severe allergic rhinitis and conjunctivitis, it is understandable that some might be tempted to pack their bags and move across the country to live an allergy-free life in a different city or province.

Unfortunately, pollen is everywhere. Whether the plants occurred there naturally or were distributed by humans, plants that produce allergenic pollens occur all over South Africa. Grasses are present in every city, town and rural area.  Allergenic trees like oak, cypress, plane, pine, birch and mulberry are readily available at almost all nurseries and are a popular choice for private gardens and for landscaping purposes. Similarly, allergenic weeds like dandelion, English plantain, goosefoot and sorrel occur on many sidewalks, open fields and road verges across the country. 

Climate plays an important role in the presence and abundance of allergenic pollen and fungal spores. When it comes to fungal spores, drier parts of the country have much lower loads than the more humid areas. However, factors in your immediate environment are just as important as the city or province that you call home. When relocating from a humid place like Durban to an arid area like Kimberly to avoid your fungal spore allergies, you might discover that your new home has indoor mould. Similarly, you might be tempted to move away from a town that is full of allergenic pollen e.g. the oak trees in Stellenbosch, just to realize that your new neighbour has oak trees in their garden.

In conclusion, there is no perfect place for allergy sufferers to live. Certain areas may have advantages due to the influence of climate on the local vegetation and fungal spore loads, but with global climate change it will become increasingly difficult to predict where and how patients will be affected. Instead of uprooting your life, it is more important to know and understand your allergy triggers. Whether your symptoms are seasonal, or you suspect that something in your immediate environment is causing you to have allergy symptoms, getting yourself tested will help you and your doctor figure out the best treatment plan for you. Also make sure to stay informed about the current pollen levels in your area and take the necessary precautions and treatments to alleviate your symptoms.