Why we could all be losing the battle with pollen this year

Friday 16 May, 2014 

  • Your help is needed – help me track changes in our health

  • The experts say hay fever and asthma are related risks – are they right?

  • Discover the real reasons why our bodies are overreacting to pollen


Today I’m on the hunt for a bit of information.

I have come to know and respect my readers opinions over the past nine years (yes it really has been that long since I first put finger to computer key) so it made sense to seek help from all of you first.

The fact of the matter is I’m a little perplexed by the number of people who seem to be suffering from hay fever for the first time in their lives this year.

In a previous letter I said that a mild and wet winter meant we would be likely to have a much higher pollen load this spring – but I can’t believe that this is the sole cause.

I keep meeting up with people well into their retirement years who have never so much as had a sniffle in the past who are now red-eyed sneezing monsters.

What is it about this year that has brought so many people to their knees with such a powerful allergic response?

The Daily Mail ran an article last Saturday about middle aged folk becoming more susceptible to developing the condition and blame increasing air pollution which is wrecking our immune systems – if that’s the case why is it affecting the older folk, after all we all breathe the same air?

If any of you have thoughts or insights I would be very grateful to hear from you.

Part of the story in the Mail says that hay fever sufferers are at greater risk of developing asthma, and a new study suggests that this may be true.

I’m not so sure though, let me tell you why...

Don’t ignore summer sniffles experts say

Gary is a dear friend down in Devon who had been maintaining that he was suffering from a spring cold for the last month...

...but finally admitted that it has to be hay fever, despite the fact he lives on the sea front at Exmouth where pollen levels are traditionally lower, and has never had a problem previously.

I managed to persuade him to try one of my favourite saltpipes which did the trick for him and proved that it was pollen in the air which was the cause of his symptoms. 

My swift action may have saved his life according to the charity Allergy UK.

They have just published a report entitled ‘One Airway, One Disease’ which states that hay fever sufferers who ignore symptoms are three times more likely to develop asthma.

Which is a trifle frightening given the number of new cases of pollen allergy I have encountered of late.

I began to worry as I continued to read the article in The Daily Express last Tuesday – especially the statistic which said “more than 50,000 hay fever sufferers are being admitted to hospital every year after suffering an asthma attack.”

So it was beginning to look like there was a real possibility that the massive increase in hay fever bouts would lead to lots more people being hospitalised for asthma...

...then something in the story caught my eye, and I began to wonder...

All may not be as it seems

I noticed that the joint publishers of the report was a company called Meda Pharma – my spider senses were a-tingling at this point so I had a look at what they made.

Any guesses?

Oh you are too good...

... one of the new drug treatments for allergic rhinitis – or hay fever as it is more commonly known – called Dymista.

It seems there was a vested interest in the study then.

Looking up the active ingredients in the product I found it was based upon a combination of fluticasone propionate and azelastine hydrochloride, whose side effects are listed as sleepiness or drowsiness, nasal problems, slow wound healing, thrush, eye problems and immune system problems.

Which aren’t as bad as those recently reported with another antihistamine drug commonly taken at this time of year called Cetirizine (Zyrtec) where blistered skin, itching and hives are regularly reported.

All of which makes me wonder whether there really is an increase in asthma risk or not – once again I would be grateful for your comments regarding your experiences with any of these over the counter or prescription drugs.

Are there more sufferers or like Gary are we becoming more aware – or being persuaded that we are suffering by devilish marketing by drug companies?

Most of the statistics that I have been able to find do suggest that the number of people suffering from hay fever has doubled in the last thirty years, and that an increasing number of those are discovering the problem later in life.

I have a theory about why this may be happening, and it has nothing to do with a change in the amount of pollen – and everything to do with us being too clean.

Want me to explain? Well read on then!

Fussy homes are too clean for your own good

Sneezing, runny noses and streaming eyes are part of our body’s natural defence system.

It is the way we are designed to rid ourselves of noxious substances which are entering the body – so far from being symptoms of a problem these effects are a sign that your immune response is working.

For hay fever sufferers this response might be working just a little too well though as it is identifying small grains of pollen as potentially life threatening and pulling out all the stops to get rid of them.

The question remains why the body decides that pollen is a threat?

One theory is that we are living in homes which are too clean and therefore our immune system doesn’t get acclimatised to foreign materials, so when one does come into contact with it – bang – huge response.

The alternative theory, and the one I favour, is that indeed our homes are clean but it is the chemicals we use to clean them that are wrecking our immune response.

Detergents on clothes, bleaches and sanitisers at wash basins and harsh cleaning products on our bodies all contribute to a degrading of natural control to our defences.

A sudden surge in something like pollen then causes a disproportionate response and a new allergy is born.

This is a topic I will return to later in the year.

Yours, as always

P.S. If you are planning a walk in the sunshine this weekend try a dab of Vaseline around each nostril as a way to help stop pollen entering your respiratory system – it’s not particularly glamorous but if it stops you sneezing afterwards it has to be a good thing...
...and don’t forget your Saltpipe or to change the refills in it to keep it working at its best



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