In our household, there are a few signs that alert the occupants to the close arrival of summer, and warm weather is just one of them.
Others include mosquito bites, Wetas turning up in the most unexpected places (on my finger when I put my hand into my purse to pay for coffee the other day was one; by my leg on the bedsheets was another); and daily fights to put sun screen on the 4.5-year-old (who has, to give at least his consistency credit, been fighting sunscreen with a murderous passion since he was about one year old).
All these things pale into insignificance when we look outside the window and see the beautiful summer sun and lush green garden, of course.
However, Ali and I are looking out the window through red, weepy eyes for the most part, because we spend most of spring and early summer almost incapacitated with hayfever.
Endless sneezing, puffy irritated faces, and scratchy throats are our spring "look". And a good "look", it ain't - unless you like looking like weepy-eyed chipmunks.
Every few months we dutifully trudge along to the chemist to buy some $100 worth of generic anti-histamines aimed at keeping our allergies in check. They work, to a degree, and they need to: with hayfever as severe as ours, daily life is almost impossible without it.
The kids are not left unscathed by the perfect trifecta of asthma, hayfever and eczema we've kindly allowed them to inherit. They are asthmatics, of course; they don't apparently suffer from hayfever but our son, in particular, wanders around with big black rings under his eyes for great periods of time (a tell-tale sign of allergies, apparently); and both kids are covered with dry skin and eczemous rashes.
There are two things that confound me about these idiotic conditions.
One is that, in me at least, things have only got worse as I've grown. Eczema so bad it draws blood and creates massive patches of bruising all over the body is just par for the course now - it doesn't even make me horrified at my own appearance any more.
Dry skin, wheezing and general irritation levels are at an all-time high. They ratchet up even higher when I keep my husband up all night with a constant chorus of romance-repelling scratching.
The other thing I can't get over is how prevalent these immune system malfunctions are amongst kids.
Not only hayfever, excema and asthma; but allergies in general to foods, pollen and pets. It's an epidemic. I can barely name one child in our circle who has escaped these curses.
Modern science has hinted at the idea that, at least in part, allergies of the severity we suffer can be attributed to our overly-clean environment. Apparently even my house.
I'm sure that's part of it but you can't help wondering if there's not something else going on here - perhaps something in our environment causing us to develop poorly adapting immune systems?
Whatever the causes are, it's a financial strain on the family if nothing else. Inhalers for all; anti-histamines for the adults, lotions and potions of every stripe to try and keep our skins looking less like sandpaper. And that's without the cost of specialists, gluten-free options, nut and egg substitutes and the like that other families have to stump up for.
What a shame that, for all our lotions, potions and pills, we don't seem any closer to understand just why we, as a society, suffer this epidemic of inflammation in the first place.By Dita De Boni