Understanding Hay Fever

DOES your nose run during the spring, summer, or early fall? Does the roof of your mouth itch at that time of the year? Do your eyes itch? Do they tear? Have you been sneezing lately? If the answer to these questions is yes; don’t take any little liver pills; they won’t help.

When these signs occurred you may have been under the impression that you had a “summer cold.” Perhaps you did have a cold. But if this “summer cold” has been recurring you probably know by now that you have hay fever. Just what is hay fever if it is not a cold in the nose and head?


Hay fever is a seasonal ailment which we know to be due to pollens in the air given off at approximately the same time every year by various plants. This explains the recurrence of hay fever during the same seasons from year to year. However, this does not tell us why certain persons have hay fever while others do not. For instance, in New York City there are about three hundred fifty thousand people with hay, fever. But there are more than six million inhabitants who do not have hay fever. Since plant pollens are inhaled from the air and presumably everybody in New York City breathes the same air, “Why don’t all New Yorkers have hay fever?” you ask.

That is a good question. The scientific answer to it is the key to the solution and cure of hay fever. You guessed it; we do not know the answer except to say that some persons can tolerate the pollens while others cannot. Those persons who cannot tolerate pollens or other protein substances are considered allergic to these substances. The term allergy means altered reaction. In other words, when we speak of persons being allergic to something we are indicating that in some way or other they show a reaction to this “something” which is altered or different from a normal reaction. In chapter seven we consider the general topic of allergy or sensitivity to such substances as animal dander, foods, molds, cosmetics, feathers, serums, drugs, and dust. There are many questions related to hay fever for which answers are known. Many of them were origin-ally proposed and explored in the hope that they would give a clue to the ultimate answer. Information has been gathered relative to such questions as the following: Is hay fever contagious? Is hay fever inherited? Is hay fever a neurosis? Does hay fever go away in 7 years? Is there hay fever in Europe? Do negroes, Chinese, and other races have hay fever? At what age does hay fever occur? How long does hay fever last? Can hay fever be cured? Why is it called hay fever? What is rose fever? How does hay fever begin? How does hay fever end?

Accurate answers to these and many related questions do exist. As we proceed in the development of this book the answers to these questions will be given. As presented here the answers will seem simple and definitive. But the reader should remember that they are based on years of research and experimentation performed by innumerable physicians and scientists. Additional investigations that are always in progress may change some of the answers which at present seem reliable. This is to be expected in the case of any human malady for which there is no known cure or complete understanding. No matter how sincere our doctors and scientists may be, they are only human and therefore not infallible.

The history of hay fever research is unique in that a majority of the earlier and later investigators were them-selves victims of hay fever. In our historical chapter we shall describe the work of Charles Blackley, the very first scientific experimenter in the field of hay fever. Himself a hay fever sufferer he conducted a prolonged experimental program, lasting some twenty years. He used his own person as his foremost guinea pig to show conclusively that hay fever symptoms were due to the inhalation of pollens. In the next chapter we will consider the very important subject of the relationship between hay fever and the pollen producing plants. The effects of the rose, the goldenrod, the weeds, trees, grasses and other plants will be explored. Their true role in the hay fever panorama will be detailed.