I had a real bare-bones and definitely incorrect first dose of immunotherapy going out to the country to hike with my friends. The allergies hit me like a ton of bricks and I had to think, snot coming out of my nose like a faucet, is this good for me? Exposure to the natural world has been shown to be beneficial in treating autoimmune diseases such as Crohn’s, and one treatment for severe allergies is actually a slow exposure to allergens (the definition of immunotherapy). Maybe going for a hike at the height of grass pollen season forced my nose to toughen up?
Here’s an allergy forecast map that could help you decide whether or not it’s a good day to take the dog to the park. Below it, a calendar that shows which months various plants produce pollen. While allergens and our reactions to them have always existed, there has been a noted increase in allergies in industrialized countries in recent years. When a study in the journal Current Opinion in Immunology sought to find out why, they listed a number of potential factors including air pollution, better housing insulation and thus more dust mites, and underlying disease. One particularly interesting note was that pollen grains can interact with pollutants to make allergies worse.
There are other things to hiking in Governor Dodge State Park than sneeze and try to hold your breath. For instance, I learned that a spring house is a shed that people would build over a natural spring to keep leaves, animals, and other potential blockages from stopping up or contaminating their water source. The running water and shade from the spring house created a cool space that people could then use as a refrigerator, way before ice delivery and electric fridges actually existed.
The waterfall was just a slow trickle down from the rocks above, but the shade offered by the dell was a treat enough after the long, sweltering hike to get there. On the way back we saw a horse sauntering along the trail. Oh, and a rider too. Have you been for any hikes yet this season?
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