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The culprit

No, that’s not one of Snow White’s dwarves and his two long-lost cousins but rather my nose and eyes at the moment. Yes folks it’s that time of year, the summer delight that is hay fever. For an outdoors person and garden lover to suffer from hay fever, or allergic rhinitis to give it its medical term, is a bit like a sick joke. At last we get some weather that reminds us that a summer is possible in this country and before you know it I’m reaching for the tissues.

Hay fever is not actually caused by hay or results in a high temperature. Some people find they are allergic to tree pollen, others the spores from fungi, but for the majority of sufferers, including myself, it is grass pollen that is the culprit. Grasses are pollinated by the wind and produce huge amounts of tiny pollen grains that are carried on the breeze; flowers pollinated by insects however, produce pollen grains that are relatively larger, heavier and less numerous and stay on the plant waiting for passing insects. I’ve suffered since I was seven or eight and although its affects have lessened over the years it’s still a pain in the proverbial; at least nowadays I don’t have to do exams when I’m feeling at my worst.

It’s annoying that it’s dismissed by many as a trivial affliction, try spending eight weeks feeling like you have a cold. It’s hard to describe how hay fever makes you feel but there’s an overwhelming feeling that all of your senses are irritated; streaming, itchy eyes, skin rashes and an itchy mouth and throat and even inside my ears. It feels like thousands of ants are crawling about. Worst of all are the sneezing fits, which can go on for several minutes. It’s not even like I have a delicate little sneeze, one of those ladylike achoos that goes unnoticed. Despite being only 5ft tall I have such a powerful sneeze, when affected by hay fever, that I did once propel myself off a table on which I was sitting. When I feel like this it really is hard to function normally and I’m afraid to say it but I do get a bit irritable. Of course, Wellyman would say that wasn’t true!!!

Last year was my first year on my allotment and I would invariably forget to pack some tissues for my afternoon’s plotting. I hate to admit to this but there were occasions when a sleeve may have been used. I know, I’m sorry as that’s really gross (the top did go straight in the wash once I got home) but after carting up numerous plants and tools I wasn’t going home just for some tissues.

Sadly for me, meadows are one of my favourite places and I love the idea of having a picnic in one on a glorious summer’s day. Maybe if I stuck one of the goldfish bowl type contraptions on my head, as was once suggested on Tomorrows’ World but that’s not really the look I’m going for and I imagine it would be uncomfortably hot in there. So there’s no running through meadows in floaty dresses for me.

Of course, there are plenty of products out there purporting to help. I’ve tried pretty much everything from conventional medication to herbal remedies, and even slathering my nostrils in a Vaseline type product, all with varying degrees of success. In recent years, hypnotherapy seems to have had the most impact. And on a positive note, I do start to feel much better by mid July. So if you, too, are a fellow sufferer dreading the next couple of months, you have my sympathy. If not, then spare a thought for those people sneezing uncontrollably this summer and who look like they’d prefer to be lying down in a darkened room.