IF YOU have had hay fever for any length of time, you know in general that your condition is caused by the pollens of certain plants which bloom at a given time each year. If you are a new comer to the ranks of hay fever victims you probably have some vague and jumbled information that your affliction is related to flowers and plants and the pollens they give off. Every season in the United States ushers in from five to ten thousand such newly discovered or developed hay fever victims.
New victim or old victim, well informed or poorly in-formed, educated or uneducated, city dweller or suburban dweller, experience has indicated to us; that if you fell over the plant that is responsible for your hay fever you wouldn’t recognize it. And if the pollens of these plants were placed before you in a dish, at mealtime, you probably would not be any the wiser. But the slightest disturbance of this harmless looking dish of light, fluffy, yellow powder would give you a rather violent hay fever spell. Thus medical men prefer to call hay fever pollinosis.
THE LEGION OF THE UNINFORMED
If you are one who is in the class of the uninformed, don’t feel too badly about it, you are in good company.
Doctors, who should be a source of enlightenment, are themselves not infrequently unfamiliar with the plants responsible for hay fever. And we are not referring to the lesser known plants nor exclusively to city dwelling doctors. Of about 100 doctors in New York and the New England States, who were interviewed during the summers of 1939 to 1942, only 35 claimed to have seen the actual ragweed plant, which is the predominant cause of hay fever in the eastern part of the United States. On two occasions we found ragweed in the front walk and driveways of the’ homes of doctors. These same physicians had patients coming to their homes for inoculative treatments against ragweed hay fever. In both these instances, neither the doctors nor the patients were able to identify the ragweed plant.
This deficiency of knowledge is surely not due to a lack of inquisitiveness by -hay fever patients concerning their ailment. Nor can it be attributed to any reluctance by hay-feverites to talk about their condition. This, they will do at the drop of a hat or sneeze. In any gathering including more than one person with an allergy, you can be sure of one topic of conversation. It has become so commonplace that the non-sympathetic public has converted “my allergy” to a phrase of banter or derision. The subject has been treated in a humorous vein in the movies, on the radio, on the stage and in literature. Hay fever sufferers accept the buffoonery good humoredly. Nevertheless, they continue to seek earnestly for information relating to their strange malady. Although the subject of hay fever may be a source of humor to many who are not afflicted, it is somewhat tragic to those who suffer from it.
The fount of information thrust at the new hay fever patient is inexhaustible. As a sufferer you never cease to hear new and bewildering tales about your ailment. You ask for it and you get it. Unfortunately what you get is not always pure truth. Like any fund of knowledge gathered by word of mouth, fact and fancy are freely intermingled. And if you ever go to a hay fever resort, there you will find all the authorities on the subject, each with his own original contribution which he feels duty bound to impart to you. And sooner or later all literate hay fever patients be-come infused with a conglomerate mass of information on the many factors that are related to their illness.
In all this mass of knowledge, one subject stands out; namely plants. Merely saying plants, makes it sound simple. But it never is. You are given dubious information about trees, weeds, grasses, flowers, pollens, spores and molds.
One tells you your ills are caused by the goldenrod. Another, that roses are the offending flowers. A third, states that both of these beliefs are incorrect. You decide that you are gathering a lot of grain with your chaff. Shortly you feel that, you will have to take up the study of plants, or a course in botany, if you are ever to know the real relationship between hay fever and the vegetable kingdom. A course in botany is not quite necessary. How-ever, your intuition is accurate. An understanding of plants and how they are associated with your ailment will help you to obtain relief from the effects of the offending plants. In what follows we shall attempt to fulfill this need with a simple and comprehensive picture of plant study as related to hay fever.