This Arizona Town Is The State’s Worst Place To Live With Asthma

Written by Alan Lemus
Updated: May 29, 2023
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The focus on asthma triggers has almost always been on pollen allergies and sources of air pollution. Unfortunately, geographical location is often not considered a way to survive and keep asthma at bay. 

No doubt, having an allergy disorder or having a parent with asthma are two of the most prevalent genetic risk factors for asthma. Many risk factors, however, are related to the environment. For example, exposure to extreme weather changes, chemical irritants, smoke, and industrial dust can trigger asthma. In addition, in some cases, exercise, stress, or cold air can trigger the onset of asthma symptoms.

Asthma causes the airways to be inflamed and swollen. As a result, the airways leading from the nose and mouth to the lungs constrict. 

The Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America (AFFA), in a report known as Asthma Capitals, outlined the worst cities for asthmatics. They’re the cities in the continental U.S. where having asthma is most challenging to manage. The AFFA ranked the top 100 U.S. cities by population based on the highest asthma prevalence rates, emergency room visits, and fatalities. 

According to the AFFA, asthma affects 25 million people in the United States, 20 million of whom are aged 18 and above. This is roughly 1 in 13 people, and it claims the lives of an average of 11 people daily. 

With these grim statistics, asthma is one of the most prevalent and costly diseases in the United States. Air quality, access to specialized medical care, poverty, pollen counts, medication use, cigarette restrictions, and the proportion of uninsured citizens are among the risk variables that the report also looks at as contributing to these outcomes.

These, however, are not the only causes of asthma symptoms that a person may go through. In addition, whether or not someone has this widespread chronic lung condition and how well they can control it may depend on where they reside.

From Cleveland, Allentown to Poughkeepsie, and St Louis, the eastern part of the country, including some Midwest areas, bears a disproportionately heavy burden of asthma, as shown by the top 20 cities on the list. 

Asthma Peak Week

Asthma hospitalizations rise every September, and doctors see more patients with bouts and attacks of the disease. The third week of the month is usually the worst for asthmatics and those with allergies, thus the name “asthma peak week.” Fall is also the start of flu season in the country.

In America, ragweed is a typical fall pollen allergy at its peak in September. It grows in every state except Alaska. Other weeds that cause allergic reactions include pigweed, lamb’s-quarters, burning bush, mugwort, and cocklebur.

Among other things, the AFAA recommends that you take allergy treatments and observe forecasts before every pollen season. In addition, reduce contact with outdoor pets and protect your eyes and hair when outside.

School kids are exposed to asthma triggers and respiratory infections when returning to school. Indoor and outdoor molds also increase. They can irritate the airways and cause allergies.

Outdoor molds develop on rotting plant matter, while indoor mold growth occurs when humidity levels rise and ventilation reduces. Although this is typical in the fall and winter, it could be a year-round problem in some climates. 

The air quality in September could be affected by extreme weather conditions or disasters linked to climate change. For example, this time of year could bring heat waves, wildfires, violent thunderstorms, or hurricanes in some areas of the country. Thus, asthma control becomes more difficult due to increased exposure to allergens and particles in the air.

Arizona’s Worst Cities for Asthmatics

The Arizonian cities of Tucson and Phoenix were rated worse than average and average in the overall national rankings by the AFFA. Tucson placed 27th with a total score of 74.22%, while the capital city Phoenix ranked 34th (70.35%) on the list. 

As for regional rankings, Tucson and Phoenix got third and fourth places in the west. Fresno, California, and Spokane only preceded them in Washington.

Tucson earned an average rating for asthma prevalence. Phoenix was averagely rated in two sub-categories: crude fatality rate and E.D. visits for asthma. 

The southwest, a region susceptible to droughts and heat waves predicted to get worse with climate change, has many fastest-warming states in the country. A 2018 report released by Climate Central revealed that only two states —Alaska and New Mexico— are warming faster than Arizona.

Arizona shares the Four Corners region, with Utah to the north, Colorado to the northeast, and New Mexico to the east. The southwest state is bordered by California to the west, Nevada to the northwest, and the Mexican states of Sonora and Baja California to the south and Southwest.


This city used to be a refuge for those suffering from respiratory issues. Many families moved here from the 1960s through the 1980s in search of safety in what was regarded as one of the best regions in the country for asthmatics. However, that’s no longer the situation in the second-largest city of the Grand Canyon state. Tucson is second only to Phoenix, with 542,629 residents as of the 2020 U.S. Census.

As the city became more industrialized and the population increased, there was a corresponding rise in emissions from power plants and tailpipes. In addition, the newly constructed bricks and concrete increased the city’s warmth and amplified the effects of climate change.

Researchers from Climate Central examined meteorological data from 246 American cities. They discovered the temperatures in Tucson have risen faster than many other American cities since 1970 and are warming by an average of 4.6 °F. 

Of the 246 U.S. cities examined, 244 (99%) have warmed since 1970. 170 or 69% of them have had a warming of at least 2 °F.

Tucson is 60 miles (97 kilometers) north of the U.S.-Mexico border and 108 miles (174 kilometers) southeast of Phoenix. It’s the county seat of Pima County and hosts the University of Arizona. The city is nicknamed The Old Pueblo after the Tucson Sunshine Climate Club used the nickname in adverts to reflect the city’s unique Spanish-Indian background.

Tucson and Phoenix are the two pillars of the Arizona Sun Corridor, a mega-metropolis in the country’s southern region and one of its fastest-growing conurbations. In 2017, the city became the first U.S. city to receive the UNESCO designation of “City of Gastronomy.”

Seven Falls Trail
Seven Falls Trail in Tuscon may be the nicest walk in an Arizona big city, but those with asthma should beware.

©Flying Mouse/


Multiple reports have listed Phoenix as one of the worst cities for allergy sufferers and asthmatics. The reasons for this aren’t far-fetched. According to the American Lung Association’s 2020 State of the Air report, Phoenix is one of the worst cities in the country for ozone and particle pollution, two potentially fatal air pollutants. 

Unhealthy ozone and particle pollution significantly negatively influence Phoenix and Tucson, Arizona’s two biggest cities. Ozone is a common air contaminant that causes haze or smog. It irritates the lungs and airways and can lead to asthma flare-ups. 

Airborne particles, such as smoke, dust, and haze, can get into the lungs through the mouth and nose. Diesel emissions, wildfires, and coal-powered stations all produce particle pollution. The risk of inhaling these particles is higher for people with asthma who may deal with aggravated symptoms. 

Phoenix’s metro region ranks among the top 10 in each of these categories. The counties of Maricopa, Pinal, and Gila, which are all part of the Phoenix metropolitan area, experienced high ozone days, and all received an F rating from the American Lung Association’s 2022 State of the Air Report. Yuma and Flagstaff were the only metro areas whose ozone levels slightly improved. 

There’s a link between air quality and health. Thus, people must have current, reliable information about the air quality in their surroundings. For example, the Phoenix metropolitan area was cited in the Climate Central report as having poor air quality.

The common perception about Arizona is that it is a sanctuary for allergy patients, a dry, sterile desert atmosphere that can cure whatever ails you. Unfortunately, the reality is far from this myth. The expansion and success of Phoenix, now a large metropolis, has exacerbated issues for people prone to allergies. It’s also one of the fastest-warming states in the country, having warmed an average of 4.3 °F since 1970.

The range of plants that might induce allergic responses has risen thanks to immigrants bringing non-native plants. Non-native mulberry and olive trees are the main culprits.

The increased use of irrigation has extended the growing season to 10 months. This is a cause of worry for people with grass and pollen allergies.

There are a lot of allergy sufferers living in a city that was formerly thought to be allergy-safe. In addition, a higher proportion of the population is allergically susceptible since people have historically relocated to Phoenix to escape their allergic discomfort.

Phoenix is the most populous state capital in the nation and the only state capital in the U.S. with a population of over a million people. It’s also the fifth most populous city in the U.S. and Arizona’s largest city, with 1,608,139 inhabitants. 

Phoenix, Arizona
The expansion and success of Phoenix, now a large metropolis, has exacerbated issues for people prone to allergies.


Where to Find Phoenix on a Map

Phoenix, Arizona, is located in the southwestern region of the United States. It is situated in Maricopa County and covers an area of approximately 517 square miles. The city is bordered by several mountain ranges, including Camelback Mountain to the northeast and South Mountain Park to the south. Phoenix can be found on a map by locating Arizona first, as it is one of the states that make up this region. From there, you can locate Phoenix, specifically within Maricopa County, using landmarks such as Sky Harbor International Airport or downtown Phoenix itself.

Asthma Management 

Experts suggest the best strategy to minimize symptoms in asthmatics is to have an asthma management plan. With your doctor, you can create an asthma management plan to help you take charge of your asthma rather than letting it rule your life.

The next best step is identifying your triggers and learning how to prevent them. This way, you can reduce your dependence on medications and asthma attacks. You can also ask your doctor about medications that could lessen allergy symptoms.

Understand and adhere to your asthma management plan to know what to do in the event of an attack or allergic response. This also helps you keep tabs on your asthma and identify early symptoms of a potential episode. For example, peak flow meters are easy-to-use, portable devices that can help you identify airway narrowing hours or even days before you have symptoms.

Do you use your inhaler with the best technique? Do you even know what the most appropriate approach is? This is your reminder to request a technique check from your physician. 

Metered dose inhalers, commonly known as inhalers, puffers, MDIs, or dry powder inhalers (DPIs), are typically used to administer asthma medications. Inhalers must be used correctly to function properly, and many asthmatics often get it wrong. If an inhaler seems difficult to use, get a recommended spacer or holding chamber. This accessory attaches to the inhaler to improve usability and aid in delivering more medication to the lungs. 

Using a holding chamber or spacer has advantages for everyone, but notably for kids. Another option is a “breath-actuated” inhaler, which releases medication when you inhale.

The advantages of managing your asthma outnumber the downsides. Be sure to choose medicines with limited side effects with your doctor’s advice.

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Phoenix, Arizona
Arizona was the state of choice for asthma sufferers for years, but what towns should asthmatics now avoid?
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About the Author

Alan is a freelance writer and an avid traveler. He specializes in travel content. When he visits home he enjoys spending time with his family Rottie, Opie.

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