Wind And Hay Fever Symptoms

If it were not for the wind the plight of the late summer hay fever sufferer would be immeasurably improved. It has often been written that the forces of civilization bring ragweed to areas that were once hay fever free. This may be true to some extent. But seasonal winds stigmatize areas that are in themselves relatively free of the offending ragweed plants. Regions affected in this manner include Cape Cod, Cape May, Cape Charles, Nantucket, Martha’s Vine-yard, Mackinac Island, Fire Island, Block Island, and Montauk Point. These locations, reputed to be hay fever resorts, have on occasion welcomed hay fever vacationers with a blast of the very pollens from which the sufferers were attempting to escape. The pollens were blown to these peninsular and island locations from areas five to twelve miles distant.

That winds of high velocity can carry pollens great distances in large concentrations is a generally accepted fact. The distances and concentrations vary with the velocity of the wind and the buoyancy of the pollens. Various examples are cited concerning the distances that pollen concentrations have been known to move. A medical friend of ours, himself an allergist, related to us his experience of suffering severe hay fever symptoms occasioned by grass pollens while he was on an ocean liner two hundred miles off the coast of Ireland.

Even more important than the velocity of the wind is the direction of the wind. This phenomenon was noted as far back as 1886 by the New England chronicler, Hamilton Child. In writing about Bethlehem, the renowned White Mountain hay fever resort, he said, “The hay fever unfortunates find here a safe refuge and convene their national assemblies on these heights without fear of sneezing, save when on rare occasions the south winds blow through Franconia Notch.” That such is the case may be noted to this day. On many occasions we have observed hordes of ragweed sufferers sneezing and sniffling in Bethlehem when the south winds blew the pollens from the ragweed-laden areas of lower New Hampshire and Massachusetts.

Durham cites as examples, Mobile, Alabama, becoming infused with ragweed pollens only when the wind is from the north, and Winnipeg, Canada, becoming laden with pollen when the winds are from the southeast. In general it may be stated that in northern locations southern winds are unfavorable and vice versa. In eastern areas western winds bring pollens and vice versa.

Hay fever sufferers living at seaside resorts have learned to watch the winds. A breeze from the ocean is welcome but a breeze from inland or an off-shore breeze as it is known, brings trouble.

THE WIND AND FUNGUS SPORES

On occasion hay fever sufferers have complained of symptoms due to winds blowing from directions in which troublesome weeds are not prevalent. Such instances should be investigated for the presence of fungus or mold spores. Recent experimentation on fungi has disclosed a surprisingly high incidence of sensitivity to these spores among hay fever patients. Two Cuban researchers have studied the variations in concentrations of mold spores as they are affected by weather conditions. They found that increased barometric pressure, higher temperature, and greater wind velocity, were all associated with increased spore concentrations.

WIND BARRIERS

Oceans and lakes are not the only obstacles against effects of hay fever pollens. Forests and mountains offer a source of protection against wind-blown pollens. The classic example of a mountain barrier against pollen effects is the hay fever situation in the Rocky Mountain region. Although pollens are known to fly rather high they do not scale certain parts of the Rocky Mountains. East of the Cascade Mountains ragweed and other hay fever pollens are found in abundance. West of these mountains, Durham indicated nary a pollen on his plates exposed at stations in Portland, Oregon, and Seattle, Washington. And so we see that it is not impossible to escape the reach of hay fever pollens spread by winds.