I get hay fever. I’ve had it since before I went to school – from around the age of four – and I still get it now, at around the age of 40. It’s relatively unusual to start getting hay fever that early (most affected people start reacting during adolescence), but my son also started suffering from hay fever at a similar age.
What has hay fever got to do with Parkinson’s? Well, it turns out that – according to an article published in New Scientist in 2006 (free to view) – there is a link between allergic rhinitis (the medical term for hay fever and other allergies that affect the nose) and Parkinson’s. It’s not a conclusive link – there is no reason to suspect that you will get Parkinson’s just because you have (or had) hay fever – but, apparently Parkinson’s sufferers are almost 3 times more likely to have had hay fever than other people:
They [researchers at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, US] studied 196 people with Parkinson’s disease and 196 others matched for age and gender. A comparison of the two groups revealed that those with Parkinson’s were 2.9 times more likely to have suffered rhinitis earlier in their lives.
The original abstract for the research paper can be seen here.
The link may be due to the inflammatory nature of both conditions and the immune response caused by hay fever:
“The inflammation produced may release certain chemicals in the brain and inadvertently kill brain cells, as we see in Parkinson’s,” [clinical neurologist James] Bower says.
And to think that I thought my hay fever was essentially harmless!