Christmas Bells

Christmas Bells
Christmas Bells - Blandfordia nobilis

Monday, November 28, 2011

Hay Fever season is upon us.

Some of my friends in Robertson are suffering really bad "Hay Fever" at present.

As I understand this issue, it might be more of a reaction to an irritant perfume, than an actual (medical) allergic reaction which is an immune system reaction, or the milder inflammation of the eyes and nose, which is the true Hay Fever. It is nearly always an allergy to wind-borne pollens, which mostly come from grasses and some wind-pollinated plants (such as Pines and Willows). But Wikipedia states that: "An estimated 90% of hay fever sufferers are allergic to grass pollen."
 This is a common irritating grass.
Yorkshire Fog
The reason that insect pollinated plants are largely discounted as allergy-causative, is that the pollen grains of insect pollinated plants are relatively large and heavy, and so do not travel far. By contrast, the ultra-fine pollens of grass and Pines can travel around the world, on the wind.

Assorted weedy grasses beside the Railway Line in Robertson
I recommend that individuals try to work out if their "Hay Fever" is caused by true allergies to grass pollens and other wind-blown pollens which might possibly require medically supervised intervention. (Doctor's treatment).  If you feel you do need medical assistance, start by talking to your local chemist or if you feel it is more severe than I am describing, see your friendly local GP

On the other hand, if you are suffering an adverse reaction to a strong and moderately irritating plant perfume,  your problem is most likely to be caused by Privets and less likely, Honeysuckle. In that case, it probably does not require medically-supervised intervention. Your symptoms might respond to commercially available medications.

For irritations, rather than true allergic reactions, 
the prime suspect is the "Small-leaved Privet" (Ligustrum sinense)
Small-leaved Privet beside Railway line
  • "Some people have allergic reactions to Privet causing asthma or related breathing problems so be careful, you might make your neighbors, spouse or children sick. Also, many people consider Privet to be invasive because it produces a ton of little berries which carry seeds and will propagate very easy so don’t plant it too close to the neighbors yard or garden bed or it might take over."
Leaves of Small-leaved Privet have undulating margins.
 The scent of Privet is very prominent at present, 
and may carry hundreds of metres.
The scent is very "cloying"  
tending to cause disgust or aversion through excess
I cannot move around Robertson at present 
without being aware of the sickly sweet perfume of Privet.
The flowers of the Small-leaved Privet are pure white when fresh.
And then there is Honeysuckle (Lonicera japonica) 
which is a genuinely sweet perfume,
but very intense and potentially irritating. 
It also grows wild in Robertson along roadside verges, 
and notably along the Railway line 
which threads its way thought the middle of the Village.
The Japanese Honeysuckle is a large-growing climber


mick said...

A very interesting post, Denis. The trigger for allergic reactions seems to be different from person to person - but (in my case) once the allergic reaction has started then almost anything will keep it going. The area around here is known to be bad for asthma sufferers - and we are surrounded by pine forests!

Denis Wilson said...

Hi Mick
Your comment: "once the allergic reaction has started then almost anything will keep it going" makes perfect sense.
It is an issue of being "sensitised" to the irritant or allergenic source.
Once you have started to react, presumably your irritation threshold changes, because by then your body is on "high alert".
Pines produce masses of ultra-fine pollen particles.
Apparently the Bureau of Meteorology has a pollen counter device on the roof of their observatory in Sydney, and they use it to issue warnings from time to time. And that is smack in the middle of a city. Those grass pollens can really "fly".

Joy Window said...

My husband suffers severely from allergies and has to dose up on antihistamines, sometimes for weeks at a time.

I'm trying to persuade him to try hookworms - yes! - which I heard about on one of my favourite science podcasts, RadioLab. It apparently really does work, for those brave enough. The side effects are apparently minimal, certainly less than the depression and irritability that my husband gets on antihistamines. He's not keen, though. If I had the same level of allergies as he does, I'd be ordering them. Check out the podcast - it's fascinating.

Denis Wilson said...

Wow. That's a radical step.
I didn't hear that broadcast, but I shall check it out at some time.
Thanks for the comment.
At least it confirms the problems some people face with allergies.