Why Dayton is one of the worst cities for people with asthma and allergies?

Dayton was 24th last year, is now 19th.

Credit: Jim Noelker

Credit: Jim Noelker

Dayton is among the top 20 cities in the U.S. that are worst for asthma, the latest report from the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of American says.

In 2021, Dayton was ranked the eighth most challenging city to live with asthma, and last year, the city went down to 24th worst out of 100 U.S. cities. This year, Dayton went up to the 19th most challenging place to live in the U.S. for asthma.

Dayton’s ranking is “due to higher-than-average emergency department visits due to asthma as well as scoring in the average range on asthma prevalence and deaths due to asthma,” said Melanie Carver, chief mission officer for the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America.

The foundation uses indicators of asthma prevalence, emergency department visits due to asthma, and deaths due to asthma to determine rankings.

Asthma prevalence is estimated using claims data for individuals who sought asthma health care at any point in the 2022 calendar year, Carver said. The data is also for Dayton’s respective metropolitan statistical area, which includes Montgomery, Greene, and Miami counties.

“There are a few solid things that are making the Miami Valley a difficult place to live for asthma and allergy sufferers that we know for sure and there’s a couple of theories,” said Faith Connovich, a Kettering Health primary care family nurse practitioner.

The wildfires in Canada made air quality challenging this summer, which resulted in more air quality alerts. Excluding the wildfires, air quality in the region is generally good. It’s improved over the decades, said Brian Huxtable, air pollution control specialist with the Regional Air Pollution Control Agency.

“We have a handful of monitors in the region that monitor for fine particulates or particulate matter,” said Brian Huxtable, air pollution control specialist with the Regional Air Pollution Control Agency.

Socioeconomic reasons can also impact access to health care, said Dan Suffoletto, public information manager for Public Health - Dayton and Montgomery County. Poverty and lack of doctors available in certain areas can be barriers to people seeking regular treatment for their asthma symptoms.

Pollen can also make asthma more challenging.

“We have our usual things of pollen,” Connovich said. The pollen includes grass, mold, and ragweed, the latter of which is now appearing. “Those things are common to this area. We have a lot of trees in the Miami Valley area that put off pollen. We went through a period at the beginning of our season here that had a long stretch with no rain, so everything got very, very dry. You could actually see the pollen in the air.”

Pollen can be a trigger for asthma symptoms. Most asthma sufferers have concurrent allergies, said said Dr. Elizabeth L. Barrett of Premier Health Primary Care Beavercreek.

“Anybody that has both is always going to get hit harder in the fall or in your heavier allergy seasons,” Barrett said.

Ragweed is the heavy hitter right now, Barrett said. The peak of ragweed season is September, and the pollen will continue to be present through November.

Respiratory infections also start to increase in September and in the fall with the start of school, and respiratory illnesses can be another trigger that can set off asthma symptoms. Around 25% of asthma-related hospital stays in children happen in September, according to the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of American. Viral infections cause up to half of asthma attacks in adults, the organization’s report goes on to say, also causing 80% of asthma attacks in children.

“Asthma is one of our biggest admission diagnoses for the entire year,” said Dr. Daniel Evans, division chief of pulmonology at Dayton Children’s Hospital. Dayton Children’s has had some increased numbers recently, he said.

Dayton Children’s patients with asthma usually have an asthma action plan, Evans said, which helps parents determine what kind of care their children need depending on the severity of symptoms, such as controller medications for when they are not experiencing severe symptoms and rescue inhalers for when they have more wheezing or coughing.

Other theories as to what impacts asthma and allergies in the region is climate change.

“Extreme weather can trigger asthma,” Carver said. Extreme weather can include very cold temperatures, heat waves, thunderstorms, and hurricanes, each of which can worsen asthma.

Climate change is also impacting pollen counts, Carver said.

“Research shows pollen seasons now start 20 days earlier, and last 10 days longer, compared to 30 years ago. That means an earlier start to spring pollen season and a longer season for grass and ragweed pollen. Ragweed is also moving further and further north. Seasonal allergies are a factor because allergic asthma is the most common type of asthma,” Carver said.

Tips for asthma and allergy sufferers:

  • Stay in air conditioning as allergy and asthma sufferers can struggle with extreme heat or other extreme temperatures.
  • Use dehumidifiers and a good high quality air filter.
  • Vacuum the floors to keep a clean environment.
  • Avoid yard work or change clothes after being outdoors.
  • If you have to go outdoors or do yard work, consider wearing an N95 mask.
  • Keep up with your controller medications, and consult your doctor about taking antihistamines regularly as part of a controller medication regimen. Antihistamines work best when taken regularly.

About the Author