herald

Sunday 17 December 2017

Ah, sunny summer days, when one-in-three of us is a sniffling, sneezing mess

hayfever
hayfever

I predicted it in these pages last April.

The hay fever season, I said back then, was going to come later than usual, because of the wet winter we had experienced.

(Well I said it, but the vital research was carried out by a scientist, of course. One who we should all have paid plenty of attention to.)

When hayfever time eventually arrived, it was going to come with a vengeance, I warned.

I didn't go as far as saying Ireland would have a re-snuffle in July, but that's how it has worked out.

I read yesterday that hayfever sufferers may actually have had the worst summer on record, because of the heatwave.

One in three of the population has suffered, and I use that word advisedly.

It's difficult to explain hay fever to non-sufferers.

When you arrive in after the weekend with your eyes so bloodshot, it looks like you have been drinking steadily and that your drink of choice is rubbing alcohol served in a pint glass, people do tend to notice and ask about it.

concern

When you say you'll live but that you appreciate their concern, your voice sounds so weird, they pay even more attention.

Until you tell the truth, at which point their interest evaporates. Instantly.

"Hayfever? Oh, all right," they say, as if you'd been claiming some exotic illness up to that point and had been revealed as having really nothing wrong with you at all.

Once people know you don't have double pneumonia with a touch of malaria, instead of concern, you get a mixture of impatience and revulsion.

Even though they know your sneezing is caused by the purple daisies in a neighbour's garden coming into bloom, they still don't want you doing it near them.

Despite knowing you cannot infect them (although you'd like to when they show their uncaring side) they still treat you like they'd have treated someone with a mild case of leprosy in the old days.

They wish you no harm, but that's as far as the goodwill extends. It's a case of "Have a nice day. Someplace else."

The problem, this year, is that the warm June weather which led bus-loads of families to head to the beaches also encouraged a mad growth spurt.

I went out to my herb patch one day to get a sprig of parsley and found the parsley was knee-high, when it had been ankle-high a few days earlier.

It was also fighting for space with weeds that looked as if they were on steroids.

Anybody with a simple patch of grass outside their door found, these last few weeks, that they had to cut the grass almost every day or it would bully the lawnmower into a breakdown.

Whenever you get a massive growth spurt affecting grass, you get a matching growth spurt in the availability of dreaded pollen.

Pollen is good for bees. It's good for plants. It's good for the environment. It's even good for pharmacists.

Yesterday, I stood in a queue in my local pharmacy and realised that the people talking to the pharmacist who looked most miserable were made up of the one in three in the population who is allergic to pollen.

They recounted their symptoms over sodden tissues, apologising as they went along.

It's a funny thing. Nobody apologises for a jellyfish sting or a strep throat.

allergic

But anybody who is allergic to pollen feels the need to indicate that they know the pharmacist or doctor has to deal with much more serious things, it's just they're really finding it difficult to manage and could they have a non-drowsy anti-histamine, please?

When the anti-histamine kicks in, it's like banging your head off a stone wall: lovely when it stops.

It's not just that you can breathe through your nose again.

All the other symptoms disappear, too: the wheezy breathlessness, the sense of having ground glass under your eyelids and the feverish headache. All gone.

As long as anti-histamine is floating around your system, you can understand why everybody else is in such good humour during sun-soaked, pollen-stuffed summer days.

July - bad time if you suffer from hayfever. Great time to be a pharmacist though.

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