Have Seasonal Allergies Ever Been Fashionable?
Believe it or not, seasonal allergies were once a fashionable fad. How could sneezing, itching, and runny noses be trendy? It all comes down to peoples’ perceptions.
Around the end of the 1800s, people thought of allergies as a disease of the upper classes. It seemed to impact people in the city more than the countryside. This association led observers to believe that education, wealth, and refinement were all linked to hay fever. Certain professions, especially those in the fields of medicine and theology, were thought to lead to allergies.
Associations of hay fever sufferers sprang up, their members proud to be associated with this “aristocratic disease.” They even acquired a nickname: “Hayfeverites.” The association between allergy and aristocracy lasted well into the 20th century. A popular play produced in 1924, “Hay Fever,” lampooned the upper classes. It wasn’t until the 1930s that allergists began to suspect anyone could acquire allergies.
It’s easy today to see how strange and silly these ideas are. But the basic observation that urbanites are more threatened with allergies than those living in the countryside could be true. Today people often develop allergies after moving from rural areas to cities. However, the reason may be more straightforward: urban areas often have pollution, and pollution can set off allergies. What’s more, growing up around farm conditions could prevent allergies in some.