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The Science Of Hay Fever... Are Parasitic Worms The Cure?

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Channel: The Royal Institution
Categories: Biology   |   Health   |   Science  
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Hay fever has an awful habit of ruining what should be the nicest time of the year. But what is it? And why is it called ‘hay fever’? Kate explores the science of allergies, and hunts through the research for a cure.
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How to prevent hay fever? Hay fever isn’t caused by hay, and isn’t really a fever. Allergic rhinitis is the technical name, but what’s it all about? At its centre, hay fever is an inflammation and irritation of the mucus membranes in the nose. Wind-pollinated plants hurl their pollen into the atmosphere, which finds its way into your nose and starts to wreak havoc. Much like other allergic reactions, hay fever is the result of your body fighting off the injected pollen as if it were a disease-causing invader. Antigen presenting cells, T cells and B cells launch into a hyperactive, over enthusiastic frenzy, ultimately causing symptoms that, although crucial when fighting off real infections, are a needless frustration.

Is there a cure? Not yet, but one strand of new research is finding hope in an unlikely source: parasitic worms. The idea is that the worms alter our immune system to avoid being repelled. These alterations just might hold the key to staving off hay fever, and finding summer happiness at last.

This film is part of our series that provides the blueprint for a scientifically perfect summer. Taking a different topic each Thursday, the videos will gradually build up an equation for summer perfection; a summer survival guide certified by science.
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