Medical historians are able to confirm that hayfever developed in the upper classes and spread slowly down into the other classes through the passage of time, however the reason for this remarkable development has always remained a mystery.
Arguably chemical sensitivity [cell-mediated allergy] fits the aetiology extremely well. Chemical sensitivity appears to have been a major contributing factor in the development of hayfever symptoms amongst the middle and upper classes of society.
It was very much common place for upper class ladies and gents to wear excessive amounts of strong perfumes and scents which could undoubtedly cause immune system dysfunction in the wearer, and for that matter anyone else who came in close contact with them.
Whilst the rich lived in splendour, the poorer classes were exposed to extreme hardship and many environmental assaults, however, seldom were they exposed to any form of chemical assault (unless due to occupational exposure, e.g. embalming), and it certainly was not common place for the poor to wear perfume. It would appear that the wearing of perfume may have created a window of opportunity thereby predisposing the upperclasses to hayfever.
Today, anyone who has experienced travelling on public transport, especially first thing in the morning, or worked in an office alongside women, will testify to the overpowering aroma of perfumes in the micro environment. Personal factors like perfumes and aftershaves are recognised by scientists for their importance and contribution to sick building syndrome in the indoor environment.
As far back as the 1930s Rowe had discussed and deliberated about the possibility of chemical allergy. In 1948 Lockey produced several papers about reactions to dyes in medicines and foods. Randolph published examples of many illnesses caused by reactions to chemicals between the late 1950s and early 1960s. In 1962 Carson conclusively demonstrated the devastating effects of chemical agriculture. Randolph has treated many patients since the 1960s - indicating that exposure to pervasive chemicals in food, water and air is rapidly becoming a major cause of illness.
Scientists and physicians (outside environmental medicine) who study reactions to chemical exposure talk of sensitivity rather than cell-mediated allergy, however to use the term sensitivity is an admission in itself that chemical exposure can cause symptoms. Scientists rarely define sensitivity due to the variable characteristics which may affect exposure and individual susceptability.
Author - Armitage; copyright 2007