Couples who live together are also likely to sneeze together, according to new research suggesting that hay fever may be “transmissible.”
Couples who live together are also likely to sneeze together, according to new research suggesting that hay fever may be “transmissible.”The study of nearly 4,300 German adults found that those whose partners had hay fever were at greater risk of developing such allergies themselves. And the longer couples lived together, the higher the hay fever risk climbed.The authors of the study published in the journal Allergy say the findings point to the importance of environment and lifestyle in the risk of developing allergies, since cohabitating couples have many of these factors in common.The researchers, led by Dr. Torsten Schafer of Medical University Schleswig-Holstein in Lubeck, surveyed 4,261 adults about their personal and family history of hay fever. They also asked whether participants’ partners had been diagnosed with hay fever.Overall, about one-fifth said they’d had hay fever at some point in their lives, with the majority saying they still had the condition.When the researchers looked only at those who’d developed hay fever after they started living with their partner, they found that men and women whose partner had hay fever had more than double the risk of developing the condition.The risk was elevated regardless of family history of hay fever, a major factor in a person’s susceptibility to allergies.Hay fever, which is marked by sneezing, runny nose and itchy, watery eyes, arises from an immune system reaction to pollen, mold or other substances in the environment. The new findings, according to Schafer’s team, highlight the fact that while a tendency toward allergic reactions is often inherited, there are other factors at work as well.It’s believed, the researchers note, that air pollution, smoking, diet and characteristics of the home all contribute to the emergence of allergies.”Some of these factors,” they write, “might be shared by couples and explain the concomitant occurrence” of hay fever. The finding also “raises speculation on a transmissible cause.”SOURCE: Allergy, July 2004.