Tuesday, October 22, 2013

1898: A description of hay fever x

The affliction was described in a letter to the editor by Dr. J. J. S.Doherty of New Haven Connecticut in the 1898 edition of "The Medical World" as follows (1, page 391):

Editor Medical World:—The season for hay fever is at hand, and as but few who are susceptible to the complaint know how to avoid, much less to cure it, a few words relative to the nature and treatment of the ailment would perhaps not be amiss. 

Hay fever is a nervous affection analagous to asthma in its manifestations, usually most prevalent during the spring and early summer. The poorer classes, and more especially those living in populous towns, rarely, if ever, suffer with it. It occurs principally among the educated classes, whose nervous systems are highly developed. Tho not in any sense a dangerous ailment, it is at all times very troublesome and irritating.

The inhalation of atoms of hay or blooming grass, the pollen of flowers, the particles producing the odor of fruit, dust or exposure to draught will excite an attack in persons subject to the complaint, but rain or damp weather invariably brings relief. 

At one time it was generally supposed that the odor of hay when being mowed or carted could induce an attack, but recent observation shows that it may occur entirely independent of the existence of hay fields and is really a nervous derangement. A visit to the seaside, a trip to the mountains, or residence in a populous town, will, however, remove the asthmatic tendency. To effect a cure the treatment should begin from six to eight weeks before the attack is expected.

A good prescription to use is: 
  • Fowler's solution .... dr. iij
  • Tr. belladonna; dr. ix
  • M. Sig.—Twelve to sixteen drops for a dose.
This should be continued daily until the period of the attack has passed, and repeated again the following year at the same season. Each successive year the attack will become lighter and susceptibility may cease in two years, altho four years is the average time required for a cure. This line of treatment was taught us back in the '70s, by Prof. William H. Thomson, of the New York University

J. S. Doherty, M.D.
New Haven, Conn.

  1. Taylor, C.F., editor, "The Medical World," volume 16, 1898, Philadelphia, 

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