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Here's What You Need to Know About Sex Being a 'Cure' For Hay Fever

PETER DOCKRILL
18 APR 2019

It's that time of year again. As the weather starts getting warmer in several parts of the world, seasonal allergies are well and truly in season. And so the sex headlines begin.

 

A flurry have recently popped up online, suggesting that sex cures hay fever. Our favourite is "Brits should get bonking as pollen levels rocket" but we're also partial to the one where experts urge everybody to "get frisky in pollen season".

Sadly, this story is basically 99 percent fake news. In fact, it's not even news.

It was news, once, but that was a whole 10 years ago: here's the exact same story saying the same thing with the same sources in 2009.

If only we'd followed this scientifically sound medical advice back then, we could have enjoyed a whole decade's worth of hay-fever-free sex!

It's funny... except it's not.

Hay fever (allergic rhinitis) is one of the most common allergic conditions in the world, estimated to affect up 60 million people in the US alone, with diagnoses in about 8 percent of all American adults and children.

It's not a fun thing to have due to numerous bothersome symptoms. While rarely dangerous, sometimes it can be, and for those who experience the gamut of sneezing, congestion, coughing, and itching, it's also very difficult to avoid the allergens that trigger hay fever, especially when pollen grains infiltrate the air in warmer months.

 

Sadly, hay fever, like most other things on Planet Earth, doesn't play nicely with climate change.

New evidence published last month suggests that the temperature extremes associated with global warming could already be "contributing to extended seasonal duration and increased pollen load" in a range of locations across the northern hemisphere.

So against this backdrop of pollen-triggered misery, it's really not helpful to see waves of fake news promoting an illusory treatment for a serious health problem – one that's a key contributor to chronic illness in the US and elsewhere.

Where does this rehash come from? The original source turns out to be a 2008 paper published in Medical Hypotheses.

It's a real scientific journal, albeit one that encourages "hypotheses where experimental support is yet fragmentary… to give novel, radical new ideas and speculations in medicine open-minded consideration, opening the field to radical hypotheses which would be rejected by most conventional journals".

With that in mind, the 2008 paper proposes that since drug-based decongestants work by constricting nasal blood vessels to alleviate symptoms of congestion, male ejaculation after sex or masturbation may also do the same thing, since it can stimulate the sympathetic nervous system to similarly constrict blood vessels.

 

This one, untested hypothetical speculation – subsequently rebuffed by a counter-response in the very same 'radical' journal only months later – is where over a decade of 'sex cures hay fever' headlines were spawned, and seemingly will never die.

Those headlines insist we "can ditch nasal sprays as experts make astounding discovery", but clearly the science doesn't yet back up these incredible claims – even if other doctors agree in principle about the sympathetic nervous system's effects on blood vessel constriction in general.

So where does that leave us? Well, in short, sex does do a lot of amazing things to your body, but as far as we know at this point, 'curing' hay fever isn't really one of them.

If you do seriously want to minimise hay fever symptoms, the best options remain the non-radical variety: reduce your exposure to pollen allergens, take any necessary medications as recommended by your doctor, and consider other lifestyle adjustments.

You can find some handy summaries and further information here, here, and here.