05/23/1983 at 01:00 AM EDT
Pity the hay fever sufferer. When the pollen flies each spring and fall, oh what misery! "I used to wake up at 5 a.m. with nose dripping, eyes swollen," says Richard Hinchliffe, 44, a British architect who long endured such distress. "I'd be debilitated and feel sorry for myself. Worse, I annoyed everyone else with my irritability."
He tried all sorts of drugs—antihistamines, steroids—but the side effects were too strong. Then, two years ago, he invented the Hincherton Hayfever Helmet. Eureka!
His patented device consists of a belt pack with a battery-powered fan that wafts filtered air through a hose to a clear plastic bubble encasing the wearer's head. Hinchliffe says the two-pound rig will provide a full half-day's relief even when used for only 20 or 30 minutes and then removed. He isn't sure why the effect lasts, but that hasn't deterred him from turning his brainchild into a small business. Operating out of his home 100 miles northwest of London in Pershore, Worcestershire, the divorced father of four and his live-in partner, Ann Atherton (hence the Hincherton name), have already sold about 200 helmets. (A Charlottesville, Va. firm, Level Seven Inc., is licensed to produce them in the U.S. Price: $189 plus shipping.)
"There are 1.5 million hay fever victims in Britain and 15 million in the U.S.," notes Hinchliffe, who thinks his headgear will someday be commonplace. Though Hincherton wearers have that moonwalk look and find conversation a bother, he says that users can "lose their self-consciousness, especially if they customize their helmets with headsets or Deely-Bobbers." Hinchliffe himself is resigned to being called "that eccentric who walks around with a goldfish bowl on his head." It beats sneezing. Bless you.