Monday, February 20, 2017

1889: Mackenzie defines hay fever

Morell Mackenzie (1837-1892)
By the 1890s, Hay Fever was a well accepted condition by the medical community, and there were plenty of books written on the subject, including one by Dr. Morrell Mackenizie. He defined hay fever as a medical condition whereby exposure to certain substances causes catarrh and asthma.

He said:
The disease may be defined to be a peculiar affection of the mucous membrane of the eyes, nose, and air-passages, giving rise to catarrh and asthma, almost invariably caused by the action of the pollen of grasses and flowers, and therefore prevalent only when they are in blossom.  
Along with other physicians who wrote on the subject, he observed  hay fever, "like influenza and cholera, did not occur in Europe in the 'good ole times,' or it was entirely overlooked until a comparatively recent period."

More likely, hay fever in Europe was probably confused for some other malady that presents with similar symptoms.

However, he also added that...
...the fact that it has certainly become more common in the last few years would seem to prove either that irritating properties have been newly acquired by certain vegetable bodies, or that the wear and tear of the so called "higher civilization" of modern life has lead to the more frequent development of the nervous temperament, resulting in a particular idiosyncrasy, which renders us vulnerable in a new way.
This was not a new idea, as the modern way of living was blamed as the cause of catarrh going all the way back to 1776 when George Cheyne wrote his book, "The English Malady."

  1. Mackenzie, Morrell, "Hay Fever paroxysmal Sneezing," 1889, London, J. & A. Churchill
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