Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Five Ten Fiftyfold: Pollen allergies

A doctor's advice is all very well, but you are inclined to wonder. There's the doctor for example, who, waiting to be called to the surgery, hangs around in a nearby bar having a smoke. He is not unique. Then there is the general health advice which is issued. In Mallorca, they do a lot of this issuing, and some of it, regardless of season, is the same. Such as keeping windows and doors closed. Why would you do this? In summer, to keep the heat out. In spring, to keep pollen out. Or such as not going out between the hours of eleven and three. Why not? Because in summer, it's too hot and in spring the pollen is more likely to affect you.

Don't have rugs or carpets, don't hang washing out, do wear sunglasses. Life, you would think, is intolerable in Mallorca. Everyone should live like hermits in minimalist interiors, stripped of all textile products, with the windows tightly shut, the vacuum-cleaner permanently on. Pollen gets everywhere. The medical people issue their advice to tackle the problems, and no one of course takes a blind bit of notice. Wheezing and sneezing.

Just look at how nice those pine trees on Puerto Pollensa's pine walk are. Not so nice when the pine is in full flower. Think how much the olive industry in Mallorca is valued. Yes, but the olives are the source of pollen, too. A great abundance of it. Less valued and less nice are the pellitory plants, the nettles, the lichwort, the sticky-weed, known also as the asthma weed. These can out-pollen even the pines and olives.

For all the advice and for all the lime-green stuff that flies about, I find it hard to think of people in Mallorca who have displayed overt signs of suffering from pollen allergies. Certainly not in the way people can be afflicted with hay-fever in Britain. And there's a reason why. Despite what the medical people say, a different type of doctor, one who is a scientist at the university, says that conditions in Mallorca and the rest of the Balearics are pretty benign when it comes to pollen allergies.

So benign are these conditions in fact that there is a tourism opportunity. Seriously, there is talk of it. Compared with northern Europe and indeed the mainland of Spain, Mallorca is a haven for the hay-fever sufferer. From March to June, the wheezers and and sneezers of Britain, Germany and elsewhere can flee the pollen of their own countries and breathe more easily in Mallorca. In the Balearics, apparently, only 40,000 people suffer from pollen allergies.

This, though, is nothing like as many as populations of northern Europe who are affected by pollen: one in four people. I'm not sure how many more that equates to, and I'm certainly not going to try and work it out, but five, ten, fiftyfold more? Whatever the number, relatively it is very much higher.

It is also nothing like the over 150,000 people in the Balearics who suffer from allergies as a consequence of the house dust mite, which is the single greatest cause of allergic reactions on the islands. The climate and the dampness of Mallorca have its drawbacks, one of them being that it is perfect for the dust mite, a problem on the island that is tenfold that in the likes of Madrid and a problem that is greater than everything that flies around in the air.

Given that Mallorca is in fact like sucking on a Tunes and breathing more easily, you can understand why few people might pay attention to the window-closing advice. You can also but wonder what the fuss has been about in respect of the withdrawal of funding for the capturing of pollen data and for the provision of this information on the website of the Balearic Government's environment ministry. The funding has been withdrawn because, well, funding is being withdrawn - period.

No, the fact is that wheezing and sneezing in Mallorca is more likely to be something to do with our mate the mite and not the pollen, and when the breezes are light, as they mostly have been lately, the pollen is tossed around far less. So you don't need to close the doors and windows. But when gushing gust winds turn just up the north, then you might have to.

* Something of an annual event now, the pollen thing and the Cocteaus' homage to wheezing and sneezing. Here this time, though, with lyrics (such as they are):

Any comments to please.

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