If you suffer from hay fever you may look on pollen as the enemy, a substance intent on ruining the best part of your year. Equally, if you have asthma, you may find that pollen often triggers your symptoms. Hay fever is very common, affecting around 1 in 5 people in the UK, whereas around 1 in 11 children and 1 in 12 adults have asthma. The two conditions are closely linked, with 80% of people with asthma also having an allergy to pollen.
Take a look below for the truth behind some of the myths and facts surrounding these two conditions.
Hay fever can cause asthma – This is a common misconception, but the truth is that both hay fever and asthma can be triggered by pollen, rather than one condition causing the other. This myth has probably come about because people notice their asthma symptoms increasing at same time as their hay fever symptoms.
Asthma is psychosomatic (all in your head) – This is a myth dating back to the middle of the last century, which some people still half-believe today. Of course, we now know that asthma is an entirely physical condition, but it is true that poor mental health can make your asthma worse. Stress, for example, can certainly exacerbate your symptoms, as with most health conditions. Stress prepares your body for 'flight or fight', and in doing so may cause your breathing to become more shallow and rapid, potentially resulting in symptoms such as a tight chest and breathing difficulties.
Exercise is bad for asthma – Ok, so this one can be a little misleading. In an immediate sense, exercise can be bad for asthma in that it can trigger your symptoms. However, in the long term it can also be good. Training and allowing your body to get used to exercise is amongst the best ways to manage the condition.
Hay fever is caused by hay – Here's an interesting one. Hay fever is not caused by hay and it never has been. Hay fever is also not a fever, and you won't experience any fever-like symptoms as a result of it. A lot of people already actually knew this, but it's still worth including as an example of a completely inaccurate myth that we need to be rid of.
You can cure hay fever with repeated exposure – This myth is probably based on the theory behind immunisation. It would make sense that exposure to a trigger would allow your body to become used to it, but that isn't the case. There is evidence that some allergies, for example, can be cured or brought under control through exposure. However, repeated exposure to hay fever triggers can actually make the condition worse, and there is little evidence to suggest that this kind of repeated exposure will be any help at all.
So next time someone tells you that your asthma symptoms are happening because of some nearby hay, or that you're imagining it, send them to us!
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