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Breathing Space: How Allergies Shape Our Lives and Landscapes Hardcover – May 28, 2007

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Mitman and his son Keefe are members of the "tribe" of allergy medication users whose expenditures fuel a $5-billion industry. Studying both the history and business of allergies, Mitman-a historian of science at the University of Wisconsin, Madison-traces hay fever from its first (erroneous) identification as an ailment of the wealthy in the 19th century up to the modern, booming antihistamine market. Since seasonal allergies were first identified, misconceptions have shaped their treatment. Early sufferers escaped to hay fever resorts in areas where their sinuses mysteriously cleared. Believing that the communion with nature had led to the reprieve, many escaped to country homesteads landscaped with the very plants whose pollen causes hay fever. As Mitman demonstrates, the story of hay fever is also the story of the development of nature tourism, urban planning and the postwar pharmaceutical boom. As Mitman demonstrates, Americans seeking relief have changed where they live, what they build their homes with, what they buy, what activities they participate in and even the chemistry of their own bodies-but still all you hear every spring is sneezes. In clear and detailed prose, Mitman offers a wide-ranging history of this ongoing struggle that's as much about 20th century American consumerism as it is about allergies. Illustrations.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

Mitman directs steely, twenth-twenty insight at popular misapprehensions, past and present, of the causes and cures of allergies, hay fever and asthma, in particular. He notes that in the latter nineteenth century, Americans considered hay fever a curse exclusive to white, upper-class males. They knew this because these "hay feverites" were the only persons who took lengthy, annual "hay fever holidays" at tony resorts in the White Mountains and on Mackinac Island. It was later recognized that allergies afflict poor, nonwhite populations with equal and sometimes greater ferocity. When asthma sufferers sought the healthy clime of Tucson, they imported Bermuda grass, evergreens, and sumac trees, to say nothing of industrial pollution and traffic congestion. Not surprisingly, allergy symptoms reprised. Chemical warfare brought its own problems when hay fever proliferated despite widespread, government-mandated herbicidal assaults on ragweed, and chemicals used to deliver breath-saving drugs were proven to be damaging to the ecology. Full of the wisdom of lessons learned as well as of noted authorities, Mitman's thoughtful presentation is nothing to sneeze at. Chavez, Donna
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Yale University Press; 1 edition (May 28, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0300110359
  • ISBN-13: 978-0300110357
  • Product Dimensions: 9.3 x 6.4 x 1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,301,442 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

7 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Techie Reader on July 13, 2008
Format: Paperback
This book gave me an appreciation for all of the knowledge that has been accumulated from the 1800s to the present on coping and treating allergies and asthma.

The book describes the late 1800s and early 1900s when fortunate allergy sufferers could travel to various locations during pollen season to escape the "hay fever" curse that visited them each year.

The book covers:

History and background of the treatment of allergies using "allergy shots" in the early 1900s.

The benefit of air conditioning had for those fortunate enough to have it in the 1920s and 1930s.

Correlations between "cockroaches" and asthma occurance, and "dust mite" feces and allergy occurance in sensitive individuals. Discusses how these links were found by various studies.

The introduction of pollen/dust air filters to treat patients who were unable to afford air conditioning.

The introduction of antihistimines and inhalers for the treatment of allergies and asthma. The developent of dramamine to treat "sea sickness" and how it was derived from allergy/asthma medicines.

As an allergy sufferer, I appreciated learning more about the history of allergy/asthma treatment. This book should be of interest to anyone suffering from allergies or asthma to give them an appreciation of how far we have come in the treatment of these conditions.
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5 of 8 people found the following review helpful By L. Bernacchi on November 28, 2007
Format: Hardcover
"A low-grade headache, right at the line of my eyes. And a scratchy throat." I whine to my mother on the other end of the line. Throughout Gregg Mitman's Breathing Space: How allergies shape our lives and landscapes, I scoffed the physical weakness of hay fever suffering elitists turned scientists or entrepreneurs or druggists. That is, until today when I was reminded of my own allergy to the mitigated air quality of my town, which is not unlike any other town in the United States: it borders a more "wild" area, is gridded with Bermuda and Kentucky grasses, and finds financial support in a sundry of industries. This town has housing projects and climate-controlled offices and immigrants, both herb and hominid, all ordinary places and spaces and people which Mitman unveils as somehow marginalized by a drive to eradicate that which ails us: allergens.

Though he blows plot secrets in the introduction, Mitman's surprises are in his prose and humor, despite the high stakes: that the "increased technological optimism [made] Americans confident in their ability to rid the landscape of allergy" also enabled the population to believe and to consume as if they could create a pristine, non-combative interior landscape, both in their homes and within the bounds of the body (7). These major themes are best played out in the chapters "On the Home Front," a history of the innovations to cleanse our personal and private spaces, "Choking Cities," a stab at the hypocrisy of American indifference to their own inner-city citizens' suffering while sending children from all over the world to high-cost, remote "scratch test centers," both bastions of relief and experiment. Though the theme of environmental justice runs like a nose throughout the book, beginning with a hilarious anecdote on a chain-wielding Mr.
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By C. Kelly on February 15, 2015
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Book in great condition, thanks.
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1 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Betty Burks on April 5, 2008
Format: Hardcover
This "history" of allergies in America tries to put the blamd on a changing environment, notably physical and biological. There are pockets of air pollution hanging over parts of the countryside and towns. At the foot of the Smoky Mountains, a thick layer of pollution hangs over the town until the sun finally filters through about noon. More people are finding they're allergic to "something else" and aging brings on more allergies to medicines and food. My worst is pest control chemicals, even those with no odors, with strong smells almost as bad.

Greg Mitman's specialty in this field is history of science studies, which includes environmental, cultural, and medical advances for allergic diseases. From sinus infections to throad down to the feet, and nasal congestion, allergies can be effectively controlled by drugs like Singulair, Zertec, Allegra, and many others. There is no satisfactory breathing space at times like Spring pollen and certain wild flowers in the Fall. We can't always avoid outdoor living with the worst pollution, but we can control indoor pollutants.

We need breathing space from all kinds of pests at the best of times. In this informative book, you learn ways to prevent being a victum of circumstances. Many migrated to the Western states in search for better air to breathe, searching for a fountain of health which collapsed in the sand.

Some asthma suffers relocated to Arizona and Colorado where the outdoor air was cleaner and has polutted during the 1950s and '60s only to find pollution followed them there en mass. The promised land for t.b. patients became a prison-like atmosphre. Frank Lloyd Wright donated enough money to build a hospital near Tucson whre is most famous "home" was built, incorporating nature into the design.
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0 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Journeyman on May 18, 2009
Format: Paperback
If you are interested in a "populist" view op politics, you may enjoy this book. If you are interested in allergies, not so much.
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