Is Hay Fever Hereditary?

Allergic ailments or the tendency to become allergic is inherited. Hay fever is one of several allergic diseases, therefore hay fever is inherited.

The concept that hay fever is hereditary is not merely a belief based on philosophy. Nor is it just a theory based on vague or general observation. It is a conclusion resulting from the collection of facts and figures by many independent investigators. However, there are some who are not yet convinced that allergies are inherited. The existence of these doubting Thomases is indicated by Dr. Warren Vaughan, the author of an accepted modern text on allergy. In his book he says, “Although it is quite generally agreed that inheritance plays a part in the development of the allergic predisposition, this conclusion is not universal. Ratner, in particular, has questioned the conclusion. He found in a study of 250 allergic children and 315 normals that the family incidence was approximately the same in both, and that about 5o percent of families in both groups showed no allergy.”

It is our conviction that hay fever is hereditary. One of the first scientific studies performed by Dr. Robert A. Cooke and Dr. Albert Vander Veer resulted in rather convincing data. They showed that of 504 allergic patients 244, or 48% had a family history of allergy. While in a normal or non-allergic group of 139 persons 17 or 12% had allergic individuals in their family. Several later studies show results in the same direction as these findings.

As has been pointed out by Dr. Vaughan, conflicting reports have recently been published on the question of inheritance of allergic conditions. The figures given by Dr. Ratner vary from those of Dr. Cooke and subsequent investigators. Since the matter is not a closed issue we shall present here the results of an original survey, relevant to the problem.


In a survey of 2275 students conducted by the writer at the College of the City of New York, data were obtained on the number of students who, were known allergics. For the sake of conservatism we restricted the allergies to hay fever, asthma and urticaria. In this group of 2275 students 272 or 11 9/10 % were found to have one or another of the allergies. Reports on a questionnaire obtained from 231 of the allergic students, indicated that 66 or 28 4/5 % had at least one parent who was allergic. Among the 2003 non-allergic students 178 or only 8 4/5 % had one allergic parent. Of the entire group of 2003 non-allergic students only one reported an allergy in both his mother and father.

The percentages indicate a ratio of 29 allergic parents in every too allergic children as against a ratio of 9 allergic parents for every too non-allergic children. These results appear to substantiate the premise of the hereditary nature of hay fever and other related allergies.


Studies of thousands of hay fever cases by many investigators show that if either your mother or father suffer from an allergy the chances are one out of two that you will become allergic. If both your mother and father are allergic, the chances are three out of four that you will inherit an allergy. However, you may not inherit the very same allergy as your parents. For example, your mother may have asthma and you may show your allergy by a rash resulting from eating certain foods. Your father may suffer from migraine while you are sensitive to animal hairs.

In the case of hay fever and asthma there seems to be a tendency to inherit the same ailments as suffered by your parents. It is also true that if the inheritance of your allergy is duplicate, you will be sensitive to more sub-stances and will show your allergy at an earlier age.