Getting all feverish over pollen

It’s that time of year when hayfever sticks its irritating feather up my nose once again. I’d really like to take hayfever aside and inflict some violence upon it. Instead, I try to appease it with medication. This has mixed results. More often than not hayfever laughs in my face.

I know there are worse problems in the world. Hayfever is just an annoying little twerp next to the debilitating conditions that other people have to put up with. Still, I’d like to punch its lights out. I am eternally jealous of people who don’t get hayfever.

For those who haven’t had the pleasure, there are three main symptoms.


First up there’s the scratchy eyes. It feels like your eyes have been sprinkled with sawdust. At the rougher end of the scale you get hundreds of tiny horned insects raging in and around your eye sockets.

Then comes the tickly throat. This is where a road works crew sets up camp at the back of your mouth. They are usually there for the entire summer and they have a whole range of jobs, from lightly raking gravel around the top of your mouth to driving heavy machinery up and down your throat.

Finally there’s the itchy nose, although the word itchy doesn’t really do it justice. This is the kind of itchy nose that makes you fantasize about jamming Popsicles up your nostrils just to get some relief.

Naturally, the itchy nose makes you sneeze and it demands constant nose blowing. A school friend of mine once pointed out that I always had a snotty nose. It was a fact of life back then. Maybe that’s why I never had a girlfriend at school. (Spoiler alert: the girlfriend thing turned out okay.)

Hayfever was more severe for me in Taupo where I grew up. There’s a degree to which I’ve grown out of the worst of it. Living near the coast certainly helps. But you may sense I still cherish some animosity towards hayfever.

Right now we’re smack in the middle of the pollen season. All those evil grasses started releasing their evil grassy pollen in September and they’ll go on partying until March. I usually begin to get affected about now. Some of the grasses I’m allergic to must be kicking in this month.

It’s not just the grass. Trees are evil too. I have a lot of sympathy for people who want to cut down their sneezy silver birch trees. But I’d never advocate killing a tree just because it releases pollen for one month in the year. Chopping down a tree to combat allergies is like throwing a stone into the river to build a dam.

That’s the problem with pollen. It’s everywhere and it’s hard to tell which variety is giving you the most grief. Where would you stop once you’d killed all the birch trees? Pines make me sneeze and other people are affected by pohutukawa. Macrocarpa release pollen all summer. Should we cut those down too?

You’d have to kill every plant and then concrete the entire city – as well as the surrounding rural hills – to make an effective stand against pollen.

Allergy New Zealand advise that pollen is at its worst between 5am and 10am each morning. I find it worse in the evening. It’s also worse when it’s humid. Oh, and it’s worse when it’s windy as well.

Standard hayfever advice is that you should stay indoors, keep the windows shut, use air conditioning and don’t go camping.  I find this depressing and unhelpful. I think I’d rather just sneeze.

One suggestion that makes good sense is to wash your hair and clothes each night to get rid of the pollen.

But by far the best advice I’ve read is that you should head for the beach over the summer holidays. Now that’s the kind of medicine I’m happy to swallow.


First published in Bay of Plenty Times 22 November 2013. Reproduced with permission.