Tuesday 21 November 2017

Third of population in grip of hay fever pandemic

Misery: Many suffer from hay fever every summer.
Misery: Many suffer from hay fever every summer.
Joanna Kiernan

Joanna Kiernan

WHILE most will mourn the end of recent heatwave, hay fever sufferers will be breathing a sigh of relief.

Almost one third of the population has been gripped by severe allergic rhinitis, or hay fever as it is more commonly known, this summer.

The huge rise in the number of people affected by the condition is being blamed on Ireland’s irregular weather patterns, as well as an overall increase in the intensity of the problem throughout the western world, due to ecological and nutritional factors.

“People have been caught and caught badly, because there has been this sudden burst of very good weather at what is, from a hay fever sufferer’s point of view, the worst time of the year, which is June, when the pollen is at its maximum potential to peak,” Dr. Paul Carson of Allergy Ireland told the Sunday Independent.

“The wet spring and June warm weather has encouraged a rapid surge in grass growth and pollination. There are very high levels of pollen in the air in a sudden burst of activity like this.”

According to Dr. Carson, hay fever has become an increasing issue over the last decade.

“Hay fever has become a much more important problem and it is all linked in with the overall rise in allergy problems throughout the Western world, which is thought to be due to a number of different factors,” he explained.

“You have industrial pollution and the amount of petrochemical fumes in the atmosphere; the amount of chemicals we take in eating and drinking, because a lot of our foods are processed to a very high degree. Another issue is that doctors have prescribed far too many antibiotics over the last few years; The body hasn’t had the opportunity to fight anything, so it has turned its attention from fighting bacteria, to fighting allergy and overreacting to allergic mechanisms.”

Irish sufferers have flocked to pharmacies around the country in recent weeks, which has led to stark increases in the sales of hay fever-related products over the last fortnight.

“We have noticed a significant increase in hay fever. Hay fever this year seems to be affecting more people and regular hay fever sufferers are experiencing more severe symptoms,” Ciara McCabe of McCabes Pharmacy group told the Sunday Independent. 

“Our allergy category is up and there has also been a large interest in our allergy-testing service. We’ve seen an increase of 40pc in sales of these products from the same period last year.”

Hay fever is caused by the immune system overacting to pollen, which it mistakes as a virus. This can result in itchy, streaming eyes, fits of sneezing, blocked sinuses and sore or ticklish throats.

While dry, humid and windy weather allows hay fever to flourish, rain is believed to clear the pollen from the air and as a result relieve sufferers’ symptoms.

Sunday Independent

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