Hay fever is a growing problem in South Africa, as evidenced by the appearance of both consumer health marketing studies and clinical trials in South African universities. These efforts are focused on clarifying the possible benefits of pharmaceutical and over-the-counter products, and in making the most helpful products available where they are needed. Even the most advanced medicine cannot “cure” hay fever, but many treatment and prevention options are out there.
Cities like Johannesburg, Cape Town, and Durban are most likely to have the most up-to-date kinds of treatment, as well as competent allergists who can identify the source(s) of the hay fever symptoms and then provide good suggestions for both treating the allergy and minimizing exposure to substances that cause the frustrating sneezy, sniffly, and itchy allergic reactions.
Bless You Cupressus
A likely source of hay fever producing allergens in South Africa is Cupressus, or Cypress trees. Many varieties of old world and new world Cypress trees were planted on a large scale in Africa, as forest trees, ornamental trees, and for timber production. One genus, the lemon scented “Goldcrest,” can be bought in South African nurseries. Cypress tops the list for plant families that contribute to hay fever, and more trees mean more pollen and, thus, more hay fever sufferers.
Learning about another variety, the Mexican White Cedar (Cupressus lusitanica), provides clues about the timing of most sufferers hay fever symptoms as well as visualization of the multi-layered cause of the prevalent source of allergens in South Africa. This tree was planted commercially at high altitudes, and thus produces plentiful and potentially far-ranging pollen. On mature trees the male cones, which are quite small, really (about 3-4 mm long; female seed cones, on the other hand, are 10-20mm long), release pollen from February to March. That is why so many experience late winter and spring hay fever.
Measurements about changing pollen levels do not seem to be widely publicized in South Africa, regardless of whether you seek information about metropolitan locales like Johannesburg, or smaller municipalities like Jeffrey’s Bay, Kleinsee, or Paarl. Still, minimizing contact with the allergic reaction producing pollen (or dust mites, dander, mold, etc.) is the first step to take after learning, perhaps from your allergist, the nature of your allergy.
For example, identifying a cluster of Cypress trees near your home or workplace, taking note of when it seems to be producing more pollen, and then finding a way to avoid that place or cover your eyes, nose, and mouth when you pass by would be a much focused approach to the problem.
Variety of Treatment Options
While coping with an incurable condition can be difficult, prevention and viable treatment plans make it much more tolerable. According to the Allergy Society of South Africa (ALLSA), untreated sufferers may even experience itching sensations in the ear canals. ALLSA provides a breakdown of 4 varieties of treatment plans: anti-histamines, mast-cell stabilizers, steroid sprays, and allergy shots. Learn about the pros and cons of each, and then go talk with your doctor about a plan that will work for you.
Other Countries and Hay Fever