Hay Fever - Symptoms
( Originally Published 1943 )
The EYES may tear, itch, smart, become encrusted, pasty, bloodshot or bleary. Several or all of these conditions are present in eighty percent of hay fever patients. Those who suffer acute eye symptoms, experience a sensitivity to light which is technically termed a photophobia.
What can you do to relieve any or all of the eye afflictions? Rubbing the eyes makes them worse, so refrain from that no matter how strong the impulse. For the present we shall say use a cold compress or bathe the eyes with a cool solution of boric acid. Dark glasses are effective in overcoming the discomfort caused by the sensitivity to light. Additional remedies and suggested medication will be given in chapter eleven.
The NOSE is the only structure of the anatomy that is more frequently and debilitatingly affected than the eyes in hay fever sufferers. The nose may run, be stuffed, itch, tickle or sneeze. The discharge from the nose during seizures is thin and watery. It is sometimes secreted so freely that it drips like water from the end of the nose. After a few days of nasal discharge the skin of the lower part of the nose and upper lip is actually worn off. Frequent coating of these areas with vaseline will help to prevent some of the irritation.
The SNEEZE is the badge of the hay feverite. During the season hay fever sufferers rarely have one sneeze at a time. Sneezes for them come in groups of three, four, five or six. Physicians report having outstanding patients who often sneeze from fifteen to fifty times consecutively. Liter-ally speaking, some unfortunates have been known to keep this up for days.
An individual who does not have hay fever may ask, "What is so terrible about sneezing, isn't there a pleasurable sensation in sneezing? And didn't the old timers use snuff to induce a sneeze?" The answer to these questions is in the affirmative. Sneezing is a pleasurable sensation for some persons. But to a person with hay fever, sneezing is anything but a pleasure. Frequently a cold sweat follows a spell of sneezing. Sometimes the sneezing seizure signals the start of a prolonged period of nose-running, palate-itching and eye-tearing. In the waning days of the hay fever season, sneezes are usually followed by a thoroughly stuffed nose. After a period of hay fever, the sneeze reflex becomes hypersensitive, so that sneezing is induced by many other substances or mild irritations, which ordinarily cause no reaction. Commenting on this phenomenon Henry Ward Beecher, the famous Brooklyn Reverend of the 1870's wrote the following:
"Your handkerchief suddenly becomes the most important object in life. By the next day the slightest draught or wind sets you to sneezing. It is a revelation. You never before even suspected what it was to sneeze. If the door is open you sneeze. If a pane of glass is gone, you sneeze. If you look into the sunshine, you sneeze. If a little dust rises from the carpet, or the odor of flowers is wafted to you, or smell of smoke, you incontinently sneeze. If you sneeze once, you sneeze twenty times. It is a riot of sneezes. First, a single one like a leader in a flock of sheep bolts over and then, in spite of all you can do, the whole flock, fifty by count, come dashing over, in twos, in fives, in bunches of twenty."
Every year you will find advertised at least fifty ephedrine and adrenalin preparations recommended for relief of the nasal symptoms. Both adrenalin and ephedrine will be more or less effective in ameliorating such symptoms. However, certain individuals react differently to the variety of ways in which these drugs are prepared. Rather than employ costly and painful trial and error experimentation on yourself, have your doctor do this. It will be cheaper in the long run.
The MOUTH is affected by an almost unbearable itching sensation on the soft part of the palate. Attempts to relieve this by rubbing with the tongue only serve to irritate the tongue. Sucking air against the area through the pharynx is of little use. Besides, the clacking sounds emitted by this practice make you seem idiotic to your neighbor. If you must clack, reserve it for the confines of your bed-room. Nor should you ever attempt to scratch the palate with a toothbrush as some individuals are wont to do. The infection that may result will be far more serious than the itch. Furthermore the discomfort rarely lasts for more than ten to twenty minutes at any one period. A suggested method that often gives relief is to gargle with salt water or a mild alkaline solution like bicarbonate of soda. Morning usually finds the mouth dry and malodorous due to a night of mouth breathing necessitated by a stuffed nose. This condition is easily remedied by tooth paste and a mouth wash.
The EARS sometimes have a feeling of stuffiness and itching. This is a result of the congestion of the membranes in the auditory tubes which are connected with the nasal passages. There is very little that can be done to alleviate the condition. A drop of pure mineral oil on a piece of hospital cotton will give as little relief as any costly remedy.
HEADACHES in the region of the forehead frequently occur. There seems to be a feeling of distension in the area just above the eyebrows. Sometimes there is a tenderness or soreness at the location of the frontal sinuses or over the maxillary sinuses formed by the cheek bones. Mild headaches during hay fever spells can sometimes be relieved by one or two aspirin tablets. Severe conditions may require a doctor's prescription of more powerful drugs which do give temporary alleviation. Be cautious about taking asperin, you may be allergic to it.
The SINUSES are holes or cavities in the bones forming the head and the cheeks. They are next to the nose and open into it. The symptoms of headache and soreness in these areas are due to inflammation and congestion, as similarly produced in the nose by the irritating pollens. "How can a hole or cavity become inflamed?" you ask. The cavity is not inflamed, it is the mucous membranes which line these cavities that are inflamed and congested.
With relief of the general hay fever symptoms the headaches and sinus effects may disappear. However, it has been stated that the most important single factor in the development of chronic sinusitis is a history of hay fever. (The word sinusitis refers to inflammation of the sinuses. "It is" is a suffix meaning inflammation. Thus tonsilitis; inflammation of the tonsils; appendicitis, inflammation of the appendix; meningitis, inflammation of the meninges which covers the brain and spinal cord; bursitis, inflammation of the bursae; etc.) The explanation for the sinusitis which follows hay fever is that the swelling of the mucous membranes interferes with the normal drainage of the sinuses, thus encouraging the growth of bacteria arid the resultant chronic infection.
The status of an absolute cure for sinusitis is in the same category as the cure for hay fever, namely, non existent. Many of the remedies and palliatives advocated for use in sinusitis have a great deal in common with those recommended for hay fever. They are just as numerous, are promoted by as many or more quacks, and are as often ineffectual. Alleviations that are recommended include cold or warm compresses, inhalation of medicated steam containing tincture of benzoin, and the use of medication in the nose as prescribed by a physician. A more detailed consideration of sinus remedies will be included in the chapter on symptomatic relief.
The CHEST is often the center of a feeling of heaviness or itching, especially in the upper regions of the bronchial tubes. Many irritants such as dust, gasoline fumes, strong odors, extreme heat or cold, excitement, or laughter may set off coughing fits similar to typical asthmatic reactions. 'When this is the case such irritations should certainly be avoided. Prolonged coughing can be relieved by one or more drugs called anti-spasmodics. These are usually restricted drugs and are only sold on a doctors prescription.
The STOMACH or abdominal region in general may react to pollen by a bellyache or what seems to be a muscle cramp. Fortunately, intestinal disturbances due to pollen ingestion do not occur in a great many cases. Very often intestinal discomfort in hay fever victims is due to a re-action to foods. It is a fact that about fifty percent of the persons who have hay fever are also sensitive to one or more other substances. Symptoms resulting from food sensitivity, which occur during the hay fever period, are often mistakenly attributed to pollens. In many instances particular foods are only disagreeable during the hay fever season. In other cases the reactions to the foods may occur mildly throughout the year but become worse during the hay fever months.
It is important to learn what foods cause such symptoms in each individual case. The alleviation simply consists of avoiding the food.
GENERAL BODILY REACTIONS are many and varied. When suffering with hay fever you may have an all over feeling of weakness, you may feel mentally depressed or sluggish, the appetite is poor and the goddess of sleep is replaced by insomnia. A strange phenomenon is the fact that in many cases the depression and lassitude is felt before the actual onset of the hay fever symptoms. This is probably due to the absorption of a small amount of pollen, but not enough to cause the appearance of symptoms. When the sneezing, itching, and sniffling does occur, then the bodily reactions are really in a state of turmoil. If ephedrine or adrenalin is used for relief it tends to cause excitation of bodily functions. Therefore the doctor adds to the prescription a sedative drug to counteract the exciting effects. Thus a typical picture of a hay fever sufferer at the time of his spells is a person see-sawing between sneezes and sniffles; headaches and belly-aches; hunger and loss of appetite; lassitude and insomnia. What a sight! This of course is hay fever at its worst. It should be understood that the severity of the condition during any one season varies, from day to day, from person to person and from one locality to another. Let us consider what the future condition will be for any hay fever sufferer in his subsequent seasons.
Somewhere and somehow the myth originated that hay fever goes away in seven years. Seven is a lucky number for some. But not for hay feverites. "If it doesn't go away in seven years, how long does it take to go away?" you ask. The answer to that question at the present writing is this: Generally, hay fever does not go away. Most people who have hay fever die with it, but not from it.
Opinions on the subject indicate that ordinarily hay fever will spontaneously disappear in about 3 percent of the cases who do not obtain any form of treatment what-ever. About 10 percent of those who annually take inoculative treatments will lose their sensitivity to pollens after periods varying from 3 to 20 years of treatment. The remaining 87 percent will continue to have their hay fever from year to year. The intensity of attacks will increase in some cases and decrease in others. Most individuals will have their ups and downs as the years roll by. Some seasons will be devastating and others less so, depending upon a variety of factors. However, this picture need not be the case. The means for controlling and radically changing the course of the disease for the other 87 percent has evolved through seventy years of experimentation and investigation. The descriptions of the successful treatments and palliative practices applicable to hay fever are contained in chapter eleven.. We may note in passing that 9 out of io persons who take the inoculative treatments experience a marked reduction in the severity of the hay fever effects. For the present let us continue with our consideration of the sequelae or after effects that are attributed to hay fever.
In view of the prostrating character of the hay fever symptoms during the pollinating months, it is remarkable that more than half of the hay fever patients can expect to be entirely free from disease the remainder of the year. With some exceptions, these summer invalids enjoy the winter months in apparently normal states of health, seemingly, none the worse for their tussle with hay fever. In most cases the inflammations of the membranes of the eyes, nose and throat vanish entirely. It has been suggested that this complete disappearance of the inflammatory symptoms may be explained by the fact that the irritating cause is a chemical rather than a germ.
As previously indicated, some individuals develop a secondary sinusitis. Others develop a chronic conjunctivitis, which is due to bacterial infection occurring in the weakened tissues. After a few seasons of hay fever about thirty percent of untreated persons develop asthma. Half of this group get an all-year-round type of asthma. This is by far the worst after-effect of hay fever.
In most cases the subsequent asthma can be avoided by taking regular inoculative treatments or changing your residence to a locality where the pollen to which you are sensitive does not exist.
EFFECT ON LENGTH OF LIFE
No matter how severely hay fever may affect you, it will not kill you. There are no medical reports of individuals dying as a result of a hay fever attack. Nor has any death certificate issued by a local board of health recorded hay fever as the cause of death.
As supportive evidence that hay fever does not effect length of life, writers have pointed to persons who have suffered with the ailment for fifty to sixty years and lived beyond their eightieth birthday. While this is true we would hesitate to arrive at any general conclusions based on such information.
Although we have been unable to find any figures on the effect of, hay fever as related to length of life it seems to bear little significance to it, if any. As evidence for this we may cite the fact that insurance companies do not consider persons with hay fever a greater risk than non-hay feverites. Since most insurance companies keep detailed statistics for just this sort of information we are led to believe that they are not missing any bets.
An investigation of the actual facts and figures on the relationship between hay fever and length of life might not be amiss. The results would either confirm or disprove our current belief. Whatever the outcome, it would be an improvement on our present knowledge of the subject which merely represents a supposition based on uncontrolled observations. There have been enough errors and half truths advanced in the study of hay fever without our adding to them. For the time being we shall go on believing that generally speaking, hay fever will not shorten the duration of your life. But we should like to suggest that an objective study is needed to support or deny this belief. We might add, for the benefit of the interested reader, that such a project would readily be accepted for a Master's thesis. In some universities it would be good for a Doctoral thesis and we are not joking.