Dr. Frankland: The Grandfather Of Allergy

Apr 7, 2020 By Leanna S, Writer
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Allergy sneezeThe new buds on plants, the chirping of birds, the crisp weather, and longer days -- these are all signs that we are into spring. 

However, spring also brings sneezes, red eyes, and runny nose for many who suffer from allergies. 

We owe our understanding of allergies to Dr. William Frankland, an immunologist who specialized in its diagnosis and treatment.  On April 2, 2020, Dr. Frankland passed away at the astonishing age of 108! 

A Breakthrough

We know that allergies are an abnormal reaction of our body's immune system to things that are harmless to others -- such as pollen, dust or certain foods. Read our earlier article here.

Dr. FranklandOne of Dr. Frankland’s greatest contributions is in the field of allergy immunotherapy, also known as desensitization. It is the concept of repeatedly exposing someone to an allergen in an attempt to change their immune system’s response until there is no allergy. 

To help with his research, Dr. Frankland even experimented on himself by having the blood-sucking insect Rhodnius prolixus bite him every day! His self-experimentation got to the point where he once almost died after developing a severe anaphylactic reaction. 

His research helped lead to the conclusion that even though allergy immunotherapy results vary person to person, on average it takes three years for someone to become immune to pollen and five years to become immune to venom-based allergens.

Dr. Frankland himself had hay fever growing up, which is an allergic response caused by pollen or dust.  His findings have benefited similar sufferers of allergies and hay fever, and today, there are many people who undergo a series of allergy shots.

What Is Pollen Count?

Dr. Frankland also helped develop the science behind pollen count, something that we use today as part of standard weather reports.

He installed a pollen trap on the roof of St. Mary’s Hospital in London while he was working there. Thanks to this pollen trap, Dr. Frankland was able to provide his patients with helpful information that was not available to them before, such as times of the year when pollen counts would be high as well as daily pollen counts. 

Pollen is measured by using a rotating rod and sticking it into the air. After 24 hours, the pollen that stuck to the rod is analyzed. The pollen is then measured according to a pollen scale from 0-12. Low pollen levels vary between 0 and 2.4, low-medium levels are 2.5-4.8, medium levels are 4.9-7.2, high-medium is 7.3-9.6, and high levels are 9.7-12.0.

Hay fever sufferers are more likely to experience severe allergic responses to pollen. It is important for them to know the time of the year when pollen counts are at the highest levels as well as the daily pollen count. 

For people with allergies, Dr. Frankland’s important research and discoveries have helped them breathe a little better.

Sources: NYTimes, BBC, bsaci.org, pollen.com, en.brinkwire.com