It’s that time of year again: the sun is shining, the flowers are blooming, and you’re slowly barricading yourself inside an elaborate fortress of bathroom tissue.
Hay fever is an allergic reaction that occurs in the mucus membranes of the nose and eyelids. Also known as allergic rhinitis, the condition causes sneezing, a runny nose and itchy, watery eyes. It occurs in spring and summer, and is usually due to a reaction to pollens from flowers, grasses and trees.
While strange facts may not cure the ailment, they’re certainly a good distraction. Here are five things you may not have known about hay fever.
The first written record of hay fever dates back to the 10th century. This was when acclaimed Arab physician Muhammad Ibn Zakariya Al-Razi (c. 865-925) described the ailment in his Kitab al-Hawi (Comprehensive Book), a collection of his clinical notes that ran to 23 volumes. That’s almost as much as your nose has been running while reading this.
Believe it or snot, someone once invented a “hay fever hat” to help springtime sufferers. The contraption was a kind of “toilet roll headpiece”, ensuring sneeze convenience all day through (look at that chinstrap!).
Pollen can be carried on the wind, so the weather can affect its location and concentration. Some weather services give daily forecasts of pollen concentration (known as the “pollen count”) by comparing the location of the plant sources with wind direction and speed. But pollen concentration is also dependent on atmospheric pressure. If there are deep convective clouds, the pollen concentration will be relatively low because the grains will rise high inside the clouds. If, however, there are low-level layer clouds, or flattened cumulus clouds, the pollen grains will be trapped in a thick layer close to the ground. Watch out!
As long as hay fever’s been around, people have been trying to cure it. Some untraditional remedies include thyme infusions, yarrow steam inhalation, and bee pollen supplements (to fight pollen with pollen).
Onion and garlic, being both antibacterial and antiviral, are two additional (and delicious) popular remedies.
So when does it all start? Hay fever is rare before the age of 6 years and usually develops before the age of 30. The good news? Hay fever affects up to 1 in 5 people, meaning you’ve surely got a friend who understands.