If you suffer from seasonal allergies or “hay fever” as it is commonly known, you know how miserable it can be for that duration of time you are experiencing its symptoms. From the itchy throat, runny nose and watery eyes in addition to the constant sneezing, it can impact your quality of life including your mood and work productivity.
There are certain other things about allergies that you may not be aware of and as a seasonal allergy sufferer too, I recently discovered some interesting facts about this all too common ailment. Below are some things I have learned.
Hay fever is not caused by hay nor is there a fever associated with it.
Apparently the term “hay fever” is cited by Merriam-Webster as having first appeared in 1829 which is the year after a London doctor named John Bostok published a paper called “A Periodical Affection of the Eyes and Chest”. In 1819, Bostok had provided to the medical profession a very good description of the symptoms of hay fever. It is believed that the name itself “as explained by Bostok, arose out of the popular belief that the ailment was caused by some invisible emanation from new hay.” Hay fever however, also known as allergic rhinitis is triggered by pollen from trees, grass, weeds and flowers and not from hay.
Allergies can develop at any age and affect anyone.
Allergies begin for most people usually before they reach the age of 20 and it is common for it to begin appearing as early as 10 years old. It can also occur later in life too as a person gets older, though the sensitivities to the allergens can change with time. For example, it may cause problems for a while and then later on there may not be any symptoms at all. The symptoms can also change in intensity and become worse or even affect different parts of the body as we age.
It runs in families and many seasonal allergy sufferers typically have family members with a history of hay fever. It also occurs in both men and women and does not discriminate on ethnic background either.
The duration hay fever varies depending on where you live.
Hay fever is seasonal and depends on the allergens that trigger the symptoms. It is caused by pollen which usually means that it would occur in the spring through summer and into autumn when flowers are in bloom. The season also varies depending on the country you live in too. In the US, the season can start as early as February in some states when the trees are pollinating and in other places such as the mid-western states, as early as May. In the southern hemisphere, such as in New Zealand, the hay fever season is harder to define and can begin in September and run until February. In the Caribbean, the hay fever season is during June and July and from October to March although a person can suffer all year long due to the high temperatures and humidity.
Most people do experience a “personal” hay fever season which is triggered by the particular allergen that causes the onset of symptoms. In the case of allergies to ragweed, the onset may appear when the pollen count is high in and then disappear when the pollen count has decreased. Typically this occurs during late summer to autumn.
Symptoms are not usually life threatening.
Not necessarily. The symptoms can range from mild to life threatening. We normally associate hay fever with just the mild symptoms that we are most familiar with such as the itchy eyes and sneezing. In some cases however a person may have severe allergic reactions where death can occur as a result of anaphylaxis. When this happens, the body reacts by blocking the airways making it difficult or impossible for a person to breathe. Just because you experienced mild symptoms before, the next allergic reaction may not necessarily be of the same intensity but can get increasingly worse.
Pets can also suffer from hay fever.
Yes, dogs and cats can also suffer from seasonal allergies and while you may sneeze and cough, your pet will be itchy. They may constantly lick their paws and rub their bodies to help ease their discomfort. Depending on the severity your pet may also have lesions on their skin and show hair loss. Their allergies can also be from pollen, dust, mold, grasses, trees and ragweed and they can either be inhaled, ingested or pass through the pads of their feet. Your vet can confirm allergy by a simple test if you suspect that this is the case and recommend appropriate treatment.