(ranked by composite score)
3. Knoxville -- 94.32
5. Memphis -- 88.72
9. Chattanooga -- 85.76
21. Birmingham -- 74.54
24. Nashville -- 72.37
27. Augusta -- 70.71
30. Greenville, S.C. -- 69.63
74. Atlanta -- 53.67
Those prone to watery eyes and itchy skin beware: Chattanooga now ranks as a top-10 city for fall allergies.
Tennessee itself is a hotbed for seasonal suffering -- Knoxville, Memphis and Chattanooga all rank in the top 10 cities for "challenging places to live with fall allergies," according to the Asthma and Allergy Foundation.
Chattanooga was 11th last year, and conditions here consistently make its residents reach for the tissue box.
"In Chattanooga, allergies are always bad because of our very mild climate," said Dr. Marc Cromie of the Chattanooga Allergy Clinic. "These allergens will come out from early September to the first frost, so we've got an extremely long season. That combination gets us."
The Tennessee region and its vast amount of pollenating trees causes ragweed and other pollen spores to litter the air. As a result, the nearly 30 percent of Americans who suffer from seasonal allergies are forced to endure the air quality.
Cromie says this fall in particular will be unkind. After more than 20 inches of rain beyond average has fallen in Chattanooga this summer, according to the National Weather Service, a second sort of nasal irritant will be present: mold.
"The leaves we all love to rake and jump in will create all sorts of mold spores flying around," Cromie said.
Amber Bowles, public relations coordinator at the Chattanooga-Hamilton County Air Pollution Control Bureau, said ragweed is out in full force in the Scenic City between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m., as well as immediately after sunrise. Those in danger of sneezing should take note.
"They especially want to stay away from the outdoors at that time," Bowles said. "Going out in the evening is better."
However, the only proven remedy is medication and antihistamines.
"People just have to get steadfast with their medicines and taking them every day," Cromie said. "If they do so, they will feel better."
The annual study ranked cities based on their overall pollen score, medicine utilization per patient and the number of board-certified allergists per patient in the city. Chattanooga's score of 85.76 was far above the national average of 62.87.
Chattanooga received low marks -- "worse than average" -- for its pollen score and medicine utilization, but found overwhelming approval for its number of board-certified allergists.
Wichita, Kan., took the top spot and the eye-watering bell curve score of 100.00.
"You cannot live in a bubble, and you cannot avoid pollen," Cromie said. "There is no good year."
Contact staff writer Jeff LaFave at firstname.lastname@example.org or 423-757-6592.