Everyone has heard of the infamous hay fever – a mysterious condition that strikes suddenly causing a wide range of symptoms that can be anywhere from slightly annoying to life-threatening. So then, what exactly is hay fever? Does it come from hay? Does it always cause a fever?
Like those old saying and pearls of folk wisdom that we all grew up on, we have heard people use the words countless times – maybe even use them ourselves, but don’t have any real knowledge or understanding of its origins or meaning. Also, like those old folk sayings, time and familiarity will take words for granted, distort their meanings in lore and muddy the truth with legends and wise tales. If ever you have wondered about hay fever and what it really is, here are the facts separated from the fiction.
Breaking The Myths
Hay fever doesn’t necessarily have anything to do with hay. The term ‘hay fever’ simply refers to an allergy attack. Allergies, as we all well know, can come in countless varieties and from endless sources. Some people are allergic to one thing, while others are unaffected and vice versa.
‘Hay fever’ was likely named due to the fact that hay can harbor large amounts of various dust and pollens. Of all the things in the world that can cause allergies in people, plant pollens are probably the most common cause. People who would work in fields or on farms were likely to be kicking around through hay, causing the varieties of pollens that settled in the hay to go air-born and eventually inhaled.
Once an active allergen makes contact with the eyes, throat or sinuses, the result can often be violent episodes of sneezing, itching, coughing, plugged up and runny sinuses rashes across the skin – and yes, in extreme cases – even fever.
In most instances, the symptoms subside once the allergen has been cleared from the environment. If symptoms persist beyond the initial exposure to the allergen, this is not because hay fever is a virus or bacteria like the ‘common cold,’ but because a bad enough allergic reaction can weaken the bodies immune system, leaving a door open for things like the common cold to let themselves through and set up shop for the weekend.
It Is Not Completely About Allergies
The difficult part about discerning myth from truth in something like hay fever is that the term is quite broad. It does not necessarily refer to a specific allergy, but more so allergies and allergic reactions in general.
It could be said that an allergy is when the body reacts negatively to an otherwise harmless substance. The reasons why the body would react to something that is otherwise not dangerous has been a mystery that has baffled scientists and medical professionals until this day.
The interesting thing about an allergic reaction is that while it has the potential to be life threatening, the only real threat is an attack on the body from the bodies own immune system which is provoked – for what we can tell – no real reason at all.
From peanuts to chocolate, flowers, trees, cat saliva… The list of potential allergens goes on and on. There have even been bizarre cases in which people developed allergies towards water! In an even stranger anomaly of medicine, one young girl was allergic to the electronic signal generated by common internet WiFi devices.
The list of treatments for allergies or ‘hay fever,’ is as broad and diverse as the allergies themselves, and like allergens, what effects one person for better or worse may have no effect at all on another.
In conclusion, any myth or wise tale about hay fever can be immediately cleared up when you come to the understanding that the term ‘hay fever’ is just a decorative word for an allergic reaction.