Monday, 14 July 2014

The History of Hay Fever



I came across this very interesting article from BBC news on hay fever history and thought it might interest those of you suffering from it. Read full article here.

Some fascinating hay fever history tidbit:


  • Hay fever is discovered by John Bostock, a Liverpool-born London doctor, who suffered from catarrh - blockages of the sinus and a general feeling of heaviness and tiredness - in June every year since the age of 8.


  • In 1819, aged 46, Bostock presented a study called Case of a Periodical Affection of the Eyes and Chest. In this study, he laid out the symptoms of hay fever sufferers and some of the relief treatments he had tried such as bleeding, cold baths, taking opium and self-induced vomiting. Nothing had worked for him. (Yikes! Ain't you glad that we don't have such treatment in this modern day for hay fever?!)


  • Over the next 9 years, Bostock found 28 cases of hay fever for his extended research and published a second article in 1828, christening the condition "catarrhus aestivus" or "summer catarrh". By then, he strongly believed that hay fever was triggered by something that happened in the summer, despite not gaining support from the medical establishment.


  • In between his first and second study, an idea prevailed in the general public that hay fever is due to the smell from new hay, hence coining the term "hay fever."

  • However, Bostock didn't agree. He thought a recurring disease, aggravated by the summer heat, was to blame and he was right. His symptoms reduced tremendously that he "nearly escaped the disease" when he rented a clifftop house for 3 consecutive summers, enjoying total rest.

  • Sea air then became a fashionable remedy for all sorts of ailments and many followed Bostock's example. In 1827, The Times reported that the Duke of Devonshire was "afflicted with what is vulgarly called the Hay-fever, which annually drives him from London to some sea-port".

  • In 1859, the true cause of hay fever is finally diagnosed. British scientist Charles Blackley (another hay fever sufferer) sneezed violently after smelling a bouquet of bluegrass and became convinced that pollen is the cause. He thought the toxins in pollen were poisoning people.

  • It was only at the beginning of the 20th century that the concept of allergies is developed.