It is the mucus that binds us…

Flowering trees, grasses and weeds often bring with them runny noses, sneezing and itchy eyes, commonly known as hay fever or ‘allergic rhinitis’ (not a stuffy rhino). The culprit? Pollen! But before we label this the ultimate enemy to our mucous membranes, let’s have a closer look at some interesting facts about pollen, its link to allergies and a few possible solutions.
Hay fever affects one in five people. It usually begins in childhood and appears to be more common in boys. Pollen enters the upper respiratory tract when you breathe and stimulates your immune system to launch an attack against this foreign invader.

Antibodies are released and our white blood cells produce histamine. If you imagine your body as a membersonly club, histamines are the bouncers. Histamines dilate the blood vessels in your upper respiratory tract, which results in a runny nose, itchy eyes and coughing, basically to help get rid of whatever’s bothering you.
But only in spring, right? Actually, the pollen season lasts all year round (hooray). It appears more prevalent in the warmer months, but different varieties of plants spore at different times throughout the year. Mould can be particularly pervasive in the colder and rainy seasons.

Common offenders in South Africa include:

Trees: Cypress, Oak, Plane, Eucalyptus, Acacia, Port Jackson and Yellowwood
Grasses: Johnson, Rooigras, Thatching grass, Kikuyu and Rye grass
Weeds Goose foot, English plantain and Khaki weed Pollen can give us clues to the past and fossilised pollen allows paleobiologists to learn about extinct vegetation.

But it’s not all bad. Pollen can be used to fight crime. It’s often used in forensic palynology (that’s ‘the study of dust’, believe it or not) to link pollen found in skin, hair and clothing samples to crime scenes. They enjoy this role so much that these sticky particles can be found even after extensive washing.


How to wash the furry ball of death razors that is your fearsome feline, Mr Piddles…

Our beloved household furballs are not immune to a pollen invasion. Just like you, Chairman Meow can also get irritating hay fever symptoms. After your kitty’s adventures in the garden (read murderous rampage followed by a nice relaxing dirt-bath), they can also bring pollen into your home. So keeping kitty clean becomes extra important if furry cuddles trigger more than just an emotional response. Washing your cat may not be top of your priority list, but keeping kitty clean will certainly help if there are allergies in the family.

Step 1:
Trim your cat’s claws. Barricade any escape routes, keep the bathroom door closed and wear protective clothing. Say a prayer.
Step 2:
Brush your cat to remove knots, dust and pollen particles. Start apologising.
Step 3:
Play. While there is no guarantee you’ll tire them out, the intention is to have a mellower cat… before placing them in lukewarm water.
Step 4:
Once in the water, soak your kitty from the neck down, use catappropriate shampoo, wash down the body in the direction of the growth of their fur, use a face cloth to wipe kitty’s face to prevent water getting into the ears and nose, and rinse.
Step 5:
Dry your cat with a towel by gently blotting the fur. Provide a heat source such as a radiant heater and allow them to recover and calm down. Exhale.
Step 6:
Reward your cat with a treat like catnip, to help create positive associations with the experience.
Step 7:
Sleep with one eye open.
AUG/SEP ‘18 | ISSUE 21