Of the 318,881,992 people in America in July 2014 reported by the US Census Bureau, 40 to 50 million have some type of allergy…and the numbers continue to rise. Of course, since many people who simply don’t like cats or shellfish claim they have “allergies” to these things, those numbers may be skewed, but that’s still a huge chunk of people with hypersensitive systems.
The most curious thing about allergies is the way they continue to grow in diversity. For example, as recently as 50 years ago peanut allergies were virtually unheard of. Millions of children ate peanut butter sandwiches for lunch often and with abandon…and not one had an adverse reaction. Nowadays if you yell, “Peanuts!” in a crowded room, half the people pull out an EpiPen.
No one knows for sure why new allergies proliferate. Some blame chemical food additives, others point to airborne toxins, and bovine antibiotics are sometimes suspect. One school of thought is that allergies emerge due to a lack of natural immunity brought on by overprotective parents who don’t expose their children to anything that’s not sterile. The latter theory is supported by the fact that kids who grow up in rural areas with lots of pets and outdoor play generally have fewer allergies to animal dander and pollen.
Although many people have mild to severe allergies to common substances like dust, mold, food types, pollen, etc., or know someone with ordinary hypersensitivities, more allergies emerge every year. While the chances of developing a bizarre allergy are slim, it’s good to be informed so you don’t think you’re crazy if you have a reaction you can’t explain.
13. Bad Vibes
If you break out in hives, welts or a rash when you start your car or your neighbor cranks up a leaf blower, you may be allergic to vibrations. The body may misconstrue the vibrations from machinery. They may be interpreted as a threat and adversely reacts by producing histamines. Antihistamines, corticosteroids and calamine lotion are good antidotes.
12. Freaky Fruit
As if pollen allergy sufferers don’t suffer enough with itchy eyes and sneezing, they may also experience oral allergy syndrome. If a fruit has the same protein as the allergic pollen, the reaction is much the same. The most common cross activity happens with ragweed and bananas, grasses and tomatoes, and birch trees and peaches, apples or plums. Simply swallowing or spitting out the culprit fruit normally solves the resultant itchy throat or mouth without any treatment.
11. Leather or Not?
A pair of shoes made from fine leather typically gets more comfortable over time as the leather softens and conforms to the shape of the foot. But some people have allergic reactions to the tanning chemicals and their feet break out in an itchy rash. Commonly called contact dermatitis of the feet, wearing heavy socks or non-leather shoes can prevent the malady. Antihistamines will cure it in a few days.
10. Wily Water
Hard to believe something vital to human existence can be rejected by the body. However, a rare condition called aquagenic urticaria is caused by plain water. A simple shower or bath for those with this allergy results in hives. The hives normally subside in less than a half hour and can be relieved with antihistamines.
9. Itchy Underwear
A significant number of people are sensitive to rubber and latex. These are prominent components in underwear waistbands. The chemicals used to produce fabrics like Lycra and nylon can also be bothersome. Since these elements vary so much from product to product, the easiest solution is seeking out pure natural-fabric undies. Another option is to just go commando.
8. Sweat and Tears
Bad enough that sweat makes your clothes stick to your skin and makes you smell bad, but some unlucky folks are actually allergic to their own perspiration. Often confused with heat rash, painful welts and itchiness may occur during strenuous activity or be triggered by eating spicy foods. Treatments vary from antihistamines to tricyclic antidepressants and anabolic steroids. Avoiding strenuous activity and highly spiced food also helps.
7. Sunny With a Chance of Hives
If your day at the beach goes awry when those warm rays of sun cause you to break out in hives, simply go inside and you’ll be fine in a matter of minutes. Being allergic to the sun is very rare. Unfortunately, there’s currently no way to combat it other than avoiding ultraviolet light. No need to sleep in a coffin and antihistamines provide relief but not prevention.
6. Semen Sensitivity
A very small number of women are allergic to semen. Contact with it result in hives and swelling in the vaginal area. Using condoms normally solves the problem and allergy shots are available for those trying to get pregnant. If the shots don’t work, more options such as artificial insemination are available.
5. Wood Working
It seems logical that those with wood allergies would be sensitive to logs and trees. Oddly, it’s the dust and shavings that cause the most problems; tree climbing is not affected. The good news is you could be allergic to just one variety. If oak brings on itchy hives, simply switch to pine, walnut, birch, whatever you “wood” like.
4. Exercise-Induced Allergies
Finally, a medical reason to avoid the gym: an allergy to exercise. Of course, no one will believe you but the condition is real. Symptoms range from simple hives to anaphylaxis, a risky condition where your blood pressure drops suddenly and breathing becomes difficult. One type is caused by eating within 2 hours of exercising and the other has nothing to do with food. To be safe and healthy, you could just cancel your gym membership.
3. Money Matters
There’s a push to discontinue the penny; it costs 1.83 cents to produce one penny. And since nickel allergies are becoming more common, the rest of our coins might be next on the list because they all contain nickel. It’s relatively easy to avoid jewelry, eyeglass frames and zippers without nickel but people who have to handle change on a regular basis suffer a lot from contact dermatitis. It’s treatable with antihistamines after exposure and topical steroid creams calm itchy rashes but recurrence is almost guaranteed.
2. Touchy Feely
Dermographism is a fancy word that literally means “skin writing,” which sounds rather intriguing but doesn’t feel good at all. Sufferers can easily write on their skin with a fingernail and the writing quickly erupts into a prickly hive. Clothing that binds or even a simple hot shower can also trigger the allergy, which only afflicts about 4 percent of the population. The most common treatment is antihistamines.
1. Cold Play
Sensitivity to cold may sound like a wimpy allergy but the rare condition can be fatal. Sudden exposure to extremely cold outdoor temperatures or plunging into an icy pool, ocean or lake causes immense amounts of histamine to flood the body. Too much histamine makes the blood pressure plummet. There’s no treatment, only prevention through good judgment.