Why Do So Many Suffer From Hay Fever?
By Awake! writer in Spain
YOUR eyes are itching and watering, you sneeze all day, your nose keeps dripping, and you have difficulty breathing. What is happening? You might have a cold. But if these symptoms afflict you when you are around pollen, you may well be suffering from hay fever. If so, you have plenty of company. The number of people whose condition is diagnosed as hay fever keeps rising every year.
“Hay fever is nothing more than an exaggerated reaction of our body toward a substance it considers harmful,” reports the magazine Mujer de Hoy. “The immune system of people with allergies rejects all agents it considers foreign—including pollen—even though these are not really dangerous.” And when the immune system overreacts in this way, it causes the annoying symptoms described at the outset.
In 1819, English physician John Bostock described hay fever. He was the first to do so. Bostock detailed his own irritating seasonal symptoms. He believed that the symptoms were caused by freshly cut hay, so the condition was called hay fever. Later it was discovered that the agents that provoke the allergic reaction are actually many different kinds of pollen. At the beginning of the 19th century, Bostock found very few cases throughout all of England.
Why, though, are there so many hay-fever sufferers today? Dr. Javier Subiza, director of the Center for Asthma and Allergies in Madrid, Spain, mentions two theories researchers are investigating. One theory puts the blame on diesel engines. It is thought that the particles coming from the combustion of diesel fuel can stimulate the action of allergens, agents that trigger an allergic reaction. According to allergist Dr. Juan Kothny Pommer, “in industrialized countries hay fever affects as much as 20 percent of the population, being more frequent in the cities.”
A second theory suggests that the cause is simply too much hygiene. ‘We are born in an operating room, we consume sterile food, we get inoculated against many diseases, and we immediately take antibiotics if we get ill. Thus, from childhood our immune system is conditioned to develop allergies,’ explains Dr. Subiza.
If you are a victim of this immunological overreaction, do not despair! With the right diagnosis and treatment, it is possible to control and reduce both the frequency and intensity of hay fever’s irritating symptoms.