A Pithy History Of Allergies
So many asthmatics also have allergies. So, I thought it would be neat to talk a little allergy history. So, that said, here’s a short and sweet history of allergies.
Mapping the history of allergies
Did allergies exist back then? Well, no one knows for sure. But, it’s certainly likely.
One theory suggests allergies are a leftover survival mechanism used by our immune systems. Those with the strongest immune systems had the allergy mechanism. We roamed basically naked in swampy regions picking up parasites along the way. With civilization, we were less exposed to these parasites. So this response went away in most people.1
But, for some of us, it still exists. And, rather than fighting parasites, our immune systems respond to harmless substances like dust mites and pollen. Thus, we suffer from allergies. So, it’s a little different than back then, although more advanced.1
The first reported instance of an allergic reaction?
Menes was a Pharaoh. Written reports describe how he died after being stung by a wasp. Many historians think this may be the first report of a death caused by anaphylactic shock (allergic reaction).2
Hippocrates lived around this time. He described how some people responded poorly to cheese. It’s possible this may be the first allusion to “allergies” or “food allergies.”3
His name was Caesar Augustus. He was a Roman leader. Various writings describe symptoms that may have been allergies and asthma. Various other members of his family also had similar symptoms, suggesting a family link.4
So, other people besides rulers suffered from allergies. It’s just that little was written about common folks unless they were famous. Another example of a famous person with allergies is Lucretius, a Roman philosopher. He described food allergies. In fact, he’s the noted author of the famous quote: “What is food to one man is bitter poison to another.”5
Claudius was another Roman emperor. Records describe how he suffered from allergy-like symptoms during certain seasons of the year (probably spring). So, he probably had hay fever or seasonal allergies.
Speaking of the family link, Claudius had two sons. His eldest son was Brittanicus. Boy, can I empathize with this guy! When exposed to horses his eyes watered and he broke out in a rash. So, he was unable to enjoy many activities with the guys. He was therefore treated unfairly.1
At one point his mom died. His dad (Claudius) remarried. His new wife was named Agrippina the Younger. She had a son named Nero. Claudius adopted him as his younger son. Nero did not suffer from allergies. Therefore, he was not seen as "weak" due to allergies. So, when Claudius died, Nero was named emperor of Rome. This was in 54 A.D.1
What to make of this history of allergies?
So, as you can see, allergy symptoms were recognized by ancient people. But, they were dealt with and brushed off as minor ailments -- like the common cold today. You sniffled, you sneezed, you maybe wheezed. It certainly affected you. It may make you feel miserable at times. But, you dealt with it on your own. You remained humble.
Still, it may have affected your life, as it certainly affected Brittanicus. And, because of what happened to Brittanicus, you were doubly motivated to keep it to yourself. Besides, there were other more serious maladies to deal with back then, diseases that killed, like plagues. What are your thoughts??
Do you experience allergies and/or sensitivities?