General Health Friday August 28, 2015

Why Does Everyone Have Hay Fever Now?

There's no escaping the fact that hay fever cases are sky-rocketing around us. Nearly everyone seems to have it and moan about it all summer.

So what is hay fever, who gets it, and what can you do about it? Let's flex the brain.

What Is Hay Fever?

It's an allergic reaction to pollen. Symptoms include sneezing, itchy eyes and a runny nose. If you have year round 'hay fever' you may actually have an intolerance to pets or dust.

Who Gets It?

1 in 4 Brits now gets hay fever, compared to 1 in 8 during the 80s.

Anyone can develop an allergic reaction. Some people find they never have a sniff of hay fever, but then they move house, perhaps next to a wood, and suddenly they need to rinse their eyeballs out come spring because they are allergic to birch trees - yes that's me.

It's no joke though. Hay fever often hits school children during exam season, which is unfair because it can really affect concentration. It can be dangerous for drivers too, when they open their windows and are attacked by pollen. You need to get some treatment if you're suffering.

Will I Recover, Doctor?

There are many antihistamines on the market that stop the irritation and misery of hay fever. Here are some other options.

~ You might find that a spoonful of honey each morning builds a tolerance to pollen. I expect years ago farm workers didn't get it because their constant exposure meant they became immune. Perhaps they were tougher than us whining millennials too. Moaning on about itchy eyes, pah! Our forebears were too distracted by banging toothache, blindness and chicken pox that made their legs fall off to worry about that.

~ Wiping Vaseline around your nostrils, ears and eyes may also help trap pollen.

~ Keep windows closed, don't sniff flowers or mow the grass. Wear sunglasses when you venture outside.

~ Humidifiers can relieve stuffy noses and sore throats, but they produce excellent breeding conditions for dust mites and mould. Cursed if you do...

~ Drying sheets and clothes in sunshine is a bad idea for people with hay fever as it coats cloth in pollen. Dry them inside.

If you are really suffering it's worth a trip to a specialist to find out what is triggering the reactions. Then you can get the appropriate treatment. The guessing game isn't much fun.

Why Have We All Got It Now?

The most common hypothesis out there is that our ultra-clean homes have left us with immune systems less able to cope with invading irritants. We simply are not exposed to enough irritants to build immunity.

We're not all allergic to the same thing either. If you get hayfever before June, when the grass starts seeding, you're probably allergic to birch, plane, oilseed rape (worst name ever), nettles and oak trees. Itching in early spring and autumn may mean an intolerance to mould. Some folk are allergic to animal hair, which is present all year round.

That's a lot of reasons, and goes some way to explaining why we all have hay fever. It's the sheer volume of irritants, plus I haven't even mentioned Kim Kardashian yet, I'm badly allergic to her.

So what have we learned about hay fever today? Probably the most important point to take away is that for the sake of your health you need to stop doing housework.

You're welcome.

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