Some VERY strange allergies

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 90% of all food related allergies are caused by milk, eggs, peanuts, tree nuts, shellfish, fish, soy and wheat.

While these are the most common, there are other allergy triggers you may not be so familiar with.

How about water?  Yes, it is possible to be allergic to one of the most abundant substances in the world, including the water in our own bodies. People with this condition, properly known as aquagenic urticaria, can experience severe itching and hives within five minutes of coming into contact with water, regardless of its source or temperature.

This condition is rare – only around 30 cases have been reported in the literature and the reason for it isn’t known. Worse still for those affected, histamine levels — the usual allergy culprit — don’t actually increase in these patients, meaning that traditional antihistamines don’t work.

While it might be hard to envision a life without water, spare a thought for women who are allergic to their own female hormones.  Although it’s not uncommon for women to suffer from acne, water retention and premenstrual syndrome (PMS) at certain times their cycle, a small number of women suffer from a condition called autoimmune progesterone dermatitis (APD). This skin disorder is triggered by progesterone hypersensitivity after ovulation.

And speaking of women’s problems – just imagine if you were allergic to semen.  While it’s more common in women, we need to point out that it’s also possible for men to be allergic to their own sperm.

Dutch researchers recently reported 45 cases of post-orgasmic illness syndrome. In both cases, the men experienced allergic symptoms around their eyes and nose, and transient flu-like symptoms within seconds, minutes or hours after sex, masturbation or spontaneous ejaculation. Yikes!

As if life without water or sex is difficult to contemplate, imagine if you were allergic to the weather.  In some people, a drop in the temperature can set off an inflammatory disorder known as cold urticaria.  Patients with the condition can experience redness, itching, swelling, hives and, in rare cases, death when they come in contact with cold air, cold water or even cold drinks. For others it’s the sun that’s the problem. Solar urticaria, can cause similar symptoms within minutes of exposure, in affected individuals.

And if all of this has left you feeling a little faint, be careful where you lie down! Although as we told you earlier soybeans are a common food allergen, and sufferers need to omit soy products from their diet, soybean allergies can be triggered by beanbags. According to a case study reported in the Annals of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology, a 6-year-old boy experienced respiratory distress while playing at school. His reaction was apparently triggered by dust from the dry soybeans in the beanbag.

Are you allergic to anything strange?  Share your stories and suffering with us!

Peanuts and Pregnancy

As we’ve discussed before, peanut allergies are on the rise. One study showed that the incidence of peanut allergy in children doubled between 1997 and 2002. Now, it seems researchers have discovered one of the reasons why.

A study of almost 62,000 mothers showed that the children of those who ate peanuts and tree nuts while pregnant were less likely to develop asthma or allergies than the kids whose mothers shunned nuts.

The results support the recent withdrawal of recommendations in both the US and the UK that pregnant women should avoid nuts because they might raise a child’s risk for allergies to the nuts.

There is little research on peanut eating during pregnancy and the subsequent risk for peanut allergy in her children yet the fear continues to lead many expectant mothers to steer clear of nuts.

So, researchers at the Centre for Fetal Programming at Statens Serum Institut in Copenhagen, wanted to take a more extensive look at nut exposure and the possible health outcomes in kids.

The mothers provided information about how often they ate peanuts and tree nuts, such as almonds and walnuts, during pregnancy.

At age 18 months, the researchers found, the kids whose mothers ate peanuts were less likely to have asthma.

Fifteen percent of kids whose moms ate peanuts more than once a week, had asthma compared to more than 17 percent of kids whose moms never ate peanuts.

When other asthma risk factors were taken into account, the researchers concluded that kids whose mothers ate peanuts regularly were 21% less likely to develop asthma.

At seven years old, this same group of kids was 34% less likely to have a diagnosis of asthma than kids whose moms had abstained from peanuts.

Similarly, mothers who ate tree nuts more than once a week had 18-month-olds who were 25% less likely to have asthma than the moms who avoided the nuts, although this difference appeared to fade as the kids reached seven years old.

Peanuts appeared to have no effect on whether kids developed nasal allergies, and the children of moms who frequently ate tree nuts were 20% less likely to have allergies.

Lead author, Ekaterina Maslova said the findings are further reassurance that moms-to-be don’t need to avoid peanuts and tree nuts, although the study doesn’t prove that nuts are actually protective against asthma and allergies.

Mahr, who is also chair of the section on allergy and immunology at the American Academy of Pediatrics, noted that interviewing people about what they eat can introduce some accuracy issues, but the findings are still interesting.

SRxA Advisor Todd Mahr, a pediatric allergist at Gundersen Lutheran Medical Center in La Crosse, Wisconsin, who was not involved in the study said “A take home from this would be if there’s no food allergy in your family, but there’s an asthma history in your family, maybe you might not want to avoid peanuts specifically.”

All of which is good news for moms with peanut butter cravings.