How’s your Summer Catarrh this year?

Hayfever has nothing to do with hay or fever.  It is in fact more accurate to call it seasonal rhinitis, or seasonal conjunctivitis if the eyes are affected. 

The first recorded description of hay fever was in an academic paper in 1819 by John Bostock, in which he described it as Summer Catarrh.  At the time he could only find 28 other people who had the same symptoms, but he still managed to write a paper on this strange new disease.  I say new, because there is no evidence that it existed before the 19th Century.  It is believed that air pollution caused by the Industrial Revolution played a part in its emergence.  Today over 13 million people in the UK suffer from hay fever!

Most people today simply pop an antihistamine or have a spoonful of local honey to stop the symptoms from disrupting their day.  But 200 years ago treatment included cold baths, bleeding, self-induced vomiting, even opium.  None of these worked of course.  Interestingly, the only thing that did work, as reported by Bostock, was staying at home and closing all the windows.  

What is Hayfever?

It was actually the public who decided to call it hay fever, after they noticed that there was a link between the symptoms of hay fever and the smell of new hay.  This was about the same time that fresh sea air was becoming a popular remedy for a variety of ills.  We now know that there are typically lower pollen counts in coastal areas. 

Img3 inflammatory reaction to pollen, a foreign substance that has been mistakenly identified as an invading pathogen.  The immune system overreacts and the result is an allergic reaction.

hay fever Westcliff southend

In most allergic reactions, the immune system, when first exposed to an allergen, produce a type of antibody called immunoglobulin E (IgE).  IgE binds to a type of white blood cell called basophils in the bloodstream and to a similar type of cell called mast cells in the tissues.  The first exposure may make a person sensitive to the allergen but does not cause symptoms.  When the sensitized person subsequently encounters the allergen, the cells that have IgE on their surface release substances (such as histamine, prostaglandins, and leukotrienes) that cause swelling or inflammation in the surrounding tissues.  Such substances begin a cascade of reactions that continue to irritate and harm tissues.  These reactions range from mild to severe.

Hayfever caused by certain pollens and different times of the year, but also mold spores, which can be airborne for long periods of time during the spring, summer and autumn

Which Pollen affects you?

These are the peak times of the year for different types of pollen.  

BirchApr – May
PlaneApr – May
OakApr – Jun
PineMay – Jun
Rape SeedMay – Jun
GrassMay – July
LimeJun – July
WeedsJun – Aug
NettleJun – Aug
Fungal SporesSept – Oct

Hayfever according to Chinese Medicine

In Chinese Medicine we believe that hayfever symptoms are due to a weak constitution caused by the weather/environment, diet, overwork and stress, which can lead to a ‘Wind Invasion’.  This is exactly the same process as catching a cold.

It has also been suggested that we are constitutionally weakened as babies, due to overfeeding or being fed hard to digest foods.  This can lead to a lifetime of allergies.  On the other hand, some children will grow out of their allergies as they mature and become constitutionally stronger.  My hayfever isn’t as strong as it was when I was in school, but it can still be pretty miserable in the summer.

Acupuncture can help relieve hay fever symptoms

Treatments such as antihistamines and corticosteroids (both of which help with symptoms of local inflammation) but both have side-effects, from drowsiness to anaphylactic shock.

However, recent studies suggest that acupuncture treatment is able to modulate immunosuppressed or immune-activated conditions through various immune functions, including the activities of macrophages, neutrophils, NK cells and lymphocytes, immunoglobulin production, and complement systems.

Or in simpler terms, acupuncture reduces inflammation and makes the summer a whole lot more pleasant for hay fever suffers!

If you have any questions about acupuncture, or any of the topics in my blogs, please do contact me.  Find out more about me, or my treatments  here.

Westcliff cancer acupuncture pain

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Shopping Basket
Join the
Learn something new with every edition