Who doesn’t love spring? The Northern Hemisphere is slipping off her shroud of brown and gray and picking out her bright party dress: hues of pink, white, yellow, and soft green. It’s a welcome sight to the winter-weary. We turn our faces up to the warmth of extended sunlight and feel renewed.
Ah, but many of us pay a price for all this beauty and joie de vie: Allergies.
The term “allergy” has only been around for about a century (you knew you wouldn’t escape this post without a little history lesson, right?). Two pediatricians, Clemens von Pirquet and Bela Schick, came up with the term in 1906. They combined the Greek words Allos (“other”) and Ergon (“reaction”) to create a term that would describe the hypersensitive response of the body’s immune system to something other than a bacteria or virus.
Charles Harrison Blackley, date and photographer unknown. Via wikimedia commons.
As recently as the mid-19th century, doctors and scientists considered heat the cause of these symptoms (hence the term “hay fever”). Allergies were also widely viewed as a “nervous disease” during this time. In 1859, however, Dr. Charles Blackley made the connection between pollen and hay fever. Most of the experimenting he did was upon himself, including a crude form of today’s “scratch tests” now commonly done for allergy screenings. Other physicians were using anecdotal evidence to come to similar conclusions about several other common types of allergies, including cats and feathers. To read more about Blackley and others, check this site.
Unless you live in Antartica (and they just found 12 million year-old pollen fossils there, so look out), you’re dealing with pollen. Lots of it. Tree pollen in the spring, grass pollen in the summer, ragweed pollen in the fall.
Around here, the tree pollen is the worst. Every morning, cars, sidewalks, and slow-moving mammals all have that greenish-yellow coating. Pollen is boss. People vs. pollen couldn’t be any less mismatched than the 300 Spartans facing down the 100,000 Persians in the Battle of Thermopylae. Our noses are running for dear life.
In the spirit of “know thy enemy” (and perhaps morbid curiosity), I looked up what U.S. cities were the worst for allergies in 2015. Here’s the top ten “countdown”:
10. Buffalo, NY
9. Knoxville, TN
8. Providence, RI
7. Oklahoma City, OK
6. Wichita, KS (ever watch The Dick Van Dyke Show? The episode “Big Max Calvada” makes this city particularly ironic)
5. McAllen, TX
4. Louisville, KY
3. Syracuse, NY
2. Memphis, TN
…and the #1 worst U.S. city for allergies: Jackson, MI.
Want to read more?
Top 25 worst cities for spring allergies
U.S. allergy forecast map (updated daily)
So, why am I writing about allergies today? Oh, I don’t know – **sniff** – it seemed to resonate with me, somehow.
At least we can take solace in the view. Here are some of my favorite pollen-laden pics from my yard and neighborhood:
Hydrangeas from my garden. More of a summer flower, but so lovely!
Do you suffer from allergies? Do you consider the beauty of spring a fair trade for your suffering? I’d love to hear from you.
Someone pass me a Kleenex!
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