Last century, when I was a teenager, I didn’t suffer from hay fever. I could frolic in the fields all summer and never sneeze once. Unless I had a summer cold of course. I say frolic, more play football or tennis. I was blissfully unaware of the pollen count, I didn’t need to care about it, so I never.
I was also extremely unsympathetic to the plight of my good friend at the time. She had horrendous hay fever. Horrendous. May would surface and so would her hay fever. If she didn’t have 18 packets of Handy Andies with her she couldn’t go anywhere. She seemed to be continually spraying something up her nose, or then blowing her nose. Or sneezing. Or sniffling. Or saying her nose was itchy. Sometimes, annoyingly, she wouldn’t come out with us because, as she said, her hay fever was so bad.
We weren’t that sympathetic. None of the rest of us suffered from hay fever. Summers were about not being at school. They were about kicking lumps out of each other playing 20 aside football (turn up, get a game) or “”winner stays on” tennis (which usually resulted in being late home and being annoyed at mum not believing that you had to be beaten in a game before you come off the tennis court – it was about pride, you couldn’t just walk off!). Summer, therefore, was not about sneezing and coughing and anti-allergy tablets and sprays and stocking up on pocket tissues every time your mum went to the supermarket.
I have to apologise to my friend here and now for being less than sympathetic about her hay fever. Why?
Well, about a decade ago, in my mid-twenties, one summer I thought I had a permanent cold. I complained about it to anyone who would listen but the most common answer was that I “probably had hay fever”. Of course they were all wrong. I couldn’t have hay fever. How would I have hay fever? Never had it before, couldn’t have it now. Hmmm…
A sensible person suggested trying an antihistamine so I did and realised this stopped the itching, sneezing, runny eyes. I took it for a few days, the results were the same. Still had to be a fluke. I stopped taking the tablets and all the symptoms returned. Annoying.
So that’s where it began and rather than growing out of hay fever, like my friend undoubtedly has, I have grown INTO it, big style. It has got progressively worse over the years to the point where I spend most of the summer looking like this;
I don’t remember the traditional hay fever season but mines lasts from about April until late September. If I forget to take my tablet for any reason the moment I step outside my eyes well up and water cascades down my cheeks. To add to that I start sniffing. So instead of looking half normal (which is good for any day), I look like I have had a sudden breakdown in the middle of the street. Hay fever sufferers will understand where I’m coming from.
It’s like this: Far from anyone offering you a tissue and a Benadryl, people give you a very wide berth, just in case you have actually had a breakdown and they might have to get involved in any way. They stare are you because by now your eyes are totally bloodshot, your cheeks are tear-stained and your nose is running and you’re sniffing like crazy to stop it. You’ll get the odd sympathetic smile but then the eyes are quickly averted.
I have to admit, when this happened to me in the supermarket on Sunday afternoon I was tempted to abandon my trolley, drop to my knees and start sobbing “WHY? Why has he left me for that girl off Jeremy Kyle? Whyyyyyy?”.
The thing is, please don’t stare as if we’ve had a breakdown. All that’s happened is our antihistamines have worn off, or in my case – stopped working completely. We may feel like having a breakdown but we haven’t actually had one.
Hay fever sufferers of the world unite! We’re not crying, we’ve got hay fever!