Are You Allergic To New York (or LA, or Atlanta)?

My wife Kathy tells me that while she was growing up in LA, she was miserable. Her family and social life was great, but she was constantly sick, suffering from headaches, and was generally physically sick most of the time. She thought this was normal until she moved to NY for graduate school and she then felt that the fog finally lifted. She felt so much better, with much more mental clarity and energy than ever before.

Her parents had a similar but opposite effect: My father-in-law had similar issues as with Kathy, including chronic nasal, sinus and allergy issues. His nose was runny all the time. My mother-in-law was fine. Then after retirement, they moved to Atlanta, and the problems reversed: my father-in law felt much better and my mother-in-law began to suffer. Once they came back a few years later, the problems reversed again.

Your first reaction may be that LA and Atlanta have very different pollens, of that LA is notorious for smog. But how do you explain my in-laws’ complete reversal in symptoms? One major aggravator of chronic nasal and sinus problems is the weather—your nose or sinuses can over-react to pressure, temperature, and humidity changes. You can even over-react to chemicals, scents, odors, or perfumes. What you may think as an allergy may not be an allergy at all.

Having a stuffy nose can aggravate sleep-breathing problems in the following way: Due to a vacuum effect that’s created downstream in the throat, the tongue can fall back and obstruct your breathing more often. This is why you’ll toss and turn more whenever you have a cold. You can imagine if your nose is stuffy for weeks to months, your sleep quality will be significantly diminished, and you won’t feel that well.

In retrospect, I have many patients that tell me that their sinus problems started only after moving to NY.

Are you “allergic” to certain cities? Please enter your answer in the comment area below.

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9 thoughts on “Are You Allergic To New York (or LA, or Atlanta)?

  1. I never had any airborne type allergies until five years after I moved to NYC. My allergist at the time (20 years ago!) told me that was about average: he noticed that all his patients who moved here from out of town starting coming to him after they’d been in NYC for five years.

    My sinus problems have gotten worse and worse, and I only get real relief when I’m in Seattle or San Francisco. Is there any way to live in NYC, or must I uproot my business and marriage, and move to a city where I feel better? HELP!

  2. OperaBabe,

    It’s certainly possible to develop allergies well into adulthood, but one thing I’ve noticed is the faster pace at which New Yorkers live their lives. There’s less sleep, more social events, and especially with performance professionals, odd or erratic work, meals, and sleep schedules. I do believe all this can contribute to hypersensitive immune and nervous systems. Have you tried allergy shots? Nasal saline irrigation? Breathe Right Strips? Is your nose stuffy? Do you eat close to bedtime? What about alcohol? Any or all of these factors can contribute to or aggravate allergy symptoms, but in most cases it can hyperactivate your nervous system in your nose, making it over-react to weather changes, chemicals, scents, or odors. It’s sort of like a migraine attack in your nose, which can lead to congestion, pressure, post-nasal drip and headaches. You can have the traditional allergic rhinitis, the non-allergic or chronic rhinitis, or both. If you haven’t done so, take a look my articles on this website, or better yet, read my book to learn about all the possible steps you can take toward helping you with you allergy/sinus issues. Good luck.

  3. Had the deviate septum done on my right nostril at 20. Then again at 30+ for the wall grown (the ent burnt the overgrown on the right nostril at the wall and bottom) weeks later the dried skin liked came off from the wall and also the bottom of the right nostril Felt so much better over 5-6 years and lately the stuffy right nostril happen again….after moving from cities to cities. Worst felt during the drought last few years. Now on the Ozymetazoline HCL treatment and Rynocort 64mg (once a day for 3days then stop sparling. Felt so much better during the doses with open up of the right nostril but how to have a complete treatment so that it minimize for mid to long term? Thanks.

    An OSA and Stuffy Right Nostril Patient.

  4. I grew up in Kansas City, which is in ‘Tornado Alley.’ I had sinus headaches every spring and was prone to colds. I was averse to taking meds so I suffered when the barometric pressure changed.

    After getting married and moving to New York, the headaches were much less severe. My husband introduced me to Sudafed and chorfeniramine maleate. The latter would knock me out if I took too much so I moderated the dosage. I breathed easier.

    We moved to Dallas six years later. Again it was an area prone to spring storms, but I knew how to manage the meds and did pretty well, altho I had bronchitis and pneumonia twice.

    Now we live in southern California. It rarely rains. The first rain of the fall usually brings an extreme sinus headache. After that I’m fine. I haven’t been sick for a couple of years. However, I’m coming down with a bit of a cold and can’t sleep which is why I’m on the ‘net.

  5. i had eczema growing up and cleared up during my college years in the philippines. when i moved to virginia, i was clear of skin allergies as well. when i moved to new york a few years back, i developed eczema, a mild case of rosacea, seborrheic dermatitis and insomnia. i dont know exactly what triggers it. its worse during winter. clears up sometimes in the summer. i am definitely considering moving!

  6. hi;
    to Malvin; try taking a decongestant at bedtime. I can’t take a full Sudafed or it keeps me up, but I am taking 1/4 of an Allegra D and it is working well to keep my nose open in sleep. apparently I have a Crutch reflex in that my nose gets congested when I lay down in bed. anyway, if you have turbinate hypertrophy apparently the surgery for that only lasts about 5 years and they grow back so you might need to get that done for the nasal obstruction. Dr. Park could comment better on that.

    I developed vasomotor rhinitis immediately upon moving into the Sacramento Valley from the foothils where I had lived at about 3000 feet for 7 yrs. all allergy testing was negative, and the conclusion was that I was reacting to the pollution. we moved to Alabama (Air Force) and the chronic post nasal drip went away; there wasn’t much pollution in Montgomery. in the last year we moved to Las Vegas and it’s back. I do seem to have developed some allergy reaction on my skin tests (thank you Alabummer) so now I have two reasons for post nasal drip. It’s interesting that my severe dysosmia started while I was living in the Sacramento Valley, so after about 2-3 years of exposure to the outdoor pollution I started reacting to indoor pollution. that part has just progressively worsened over time.

  7. I was researching this topic a year ago and couldn’t find anything, so I’m glad you posted this so that I know I’m not the only one. I’m originally from Oklahoma, and I have always had allergies and eczema, but it was very mild. By the time I was in college my eczema had cleared up completely. So, needless to say, I was surprised to see my eczema return when I moved to NYC two years ago. I mean within the first DAY I was here I grew a small rash on the side of my face, and the rash just grew and grew and now eczema covers my whole body. Whenever I leave the city, my eczema clears up completely. I was in Las Vegas earlier this year and my eczema cleared up in just a few days. As soon as I came back to the city, my body started itching as I was crossing the bridge into Manhattan. This city is TOXIC. If my eczema doesn’t clear up by the time my lease ends, I’m definitely going to have to move to a different city.

  8. I have had excema, my hands would crack, and I had to stop waiting tables. We think it was the diswashing soap in the hobart and food contact. But my real problem is fragrance and chemical sensitivity in my lungs. Ironically it always seems worse in Charlotte NC, but gets much better when I go to NY and NJ. (Although I don’t spend a lot of time in NYC) Mostly Long Island and Bergen county NJ. There are a lot of different molds and spores down here that I don’t sense up north.. I can smell them and sometimes even taste them… pollen too. Stuff in the soil/clay that gets kicked up by all the construction and for other reasons. Also the actual earth smells different down in the south. (Like in the woods.) I get overwhelmed and confused by fragrance often, especially at work and it tends to cause confusion and memory problems. This is due to all the collective colognes and body wash fragrances… even lotions (especially) it would seem that I have no one to turn to for help in this matter. Doctors do not seem concerned or know what to do.

  9. I have never suffered from allergies or sinus problems in my life! Then…I moved to staten island. I have lived here 6 months and have experienced almost constant head pressure/ head fog, nasal congestion, and just over all feeling like crap. Its such a bummer…I can’t even enjoy the city, I feel like a prisoner in my home because I need feel all that great so i dont want to do anything. hoping to get relocated ASAP!!