Natural latex derived from rubber is found in certain medical equipment such as medical gloves, condoms, and other medical items. Prolonged exposure to these items can trigger an allergic reaction which may range from a skin irritation to asthma-like breathing difficulties to anaphylactic shock. Allergic reactions to latex are usually caused by prolonged exposure to the substance, so medical staff who regularly wear latex gloves, or patients who have had lots of surgical procedures or lots of dental work are susceptible.
Sufferers are often people with a proclivity for allergies, and may also suffer from hay fever or food allergies. People who have multiple allergies may increase the likelihood of a bad reaction to latex if they have been eating foods they are allergic to, or are fighting hay fever at the same time. Allergic reactions include skin rash, eye irritation, runny nose, sneezing, wheezing and itching of the skin or nose. Anaphylactic shock can occur in rare incidents, a life-threatening reaction that can cause difficulty breathing and a drop in blood pressure.
Latex gloves are often dusted with latex dust to make it easier to put them on, so sufferers only need to be in the vicinity of latex to react. Those allergic to latex should wear a Medic Alert bracelet and carry an adrenaline (epinephrine) auto-injector. They should always warn any medical personnel you encounter to treat them in a latex-free facility only.
Many medical facilities have moved to synthetic or low-protein latex supplies and this has had a very positive effect on the incidence of this allergy. While the majority of suffers are medical staff, an allergic reaction in a patient who is already poorly only helps make their weakened condition even worse.
When one thinks of mold, one thinks of dark, moist places in the home where these dark spots appear and thrive. However, molds are fungi and thrive in outdoor places such as damp, rotting logs or leaf litters or in the dirt. Moulds and their spores produce allergens, irritants and, in some cases, potentially toxic substances. Inhaling or touching mold may cause allergic reactions in sensitive individuals.
Mold spores in the sinus system will trigger the same symptoms as hay fever, while spores drawn into the lungs will result in symptoms similar to asthma. Mold acts as an irritant as well as an allergen, although the body’s reaction to both is similar. It may be difficult to diagnose mold as the cause of an allergic reaction because mold spores are so ubiquitous.
Allergic reactions can occur throughout the year, but people reacting to outside sources usually suffer more in the summer or autumn. Indoor reactions will be more likely in colder weather when the house is closed off from fresh air. If you know that the irritants are outside, reduce your time outdoors when mold counts are high, or wear a dust mask. People in areas with cold winters, where the house is closed off from outside air, can easily succumb to mold allergies when they breathe in uncirculated air for extended periods
Reduce mold inside the home by keeping air conditioner filters clean and reduce the humidity as much as possible. General cleanliness will also help, but be especially wary of out-of-the-way spots such as under the sink. Remember that the chemical sprays which combat mold infestations in the house are usually harsh in their own right and care should be used to reduce exposure to them.
Nobody likes cockroaches, but they cause more damage in your home than just being unwanted guests. Their droppings, saliva or shed body parts contain an allergenic protein (so stomping on them is only part of the solution). Typical cockroach allergy symptoms include coughing, nasal congestion, skin rashes, wheezing, ear infection and sinus infection.
Often, these symptoms become chronic, while often other allergens like hay fever cause only seasonal discomfort. American researchers calculate that nearly all homes in urban areas have cockroaches and that the majority of people with asthma living in those home owe their symptoms to a cockroach allergy. These insects, known for their resilience anyway, do even better in warmer climes.
It can be difficult to impossible to get rid of cockroaches completely from your home, particularly if you live in a block of flats where insects can easily pass back and forth between neighbors, but it’s worth the effort. Kill cockroaches by using cockroach traps or pesticides (but remember that a pesticide that can take out a cockroach isn’t going to do you any good, either), keep a clean kitchen and repair cracks and holes in floors, walls, and windows to prevent their entry into the home.
Remember that cockroaches can get through the very tiniest of spaces. Repair any leaks or drips that can supply them with water and keep all food tightly sealed and clean up any messes immediately. Vacuum up all that cockroach detritus. Avoid piles of papers or anything bugs can use as home or hiding places. You can see that keeping a clean house which discourages cockroaches will have other advantages as well, such as repelling rodents, other insects, mold, and germs.
House dust mites are arthropods (with eight legs like spiders) which are too small for us to see. They feed on the dead skin cells of humans and their pets, as well as on pollen, bacteria and fungi. The 1.5 grams of dead skin and hair that you shed daily will feed a million dust mites! They like areas such as beds and carpets where dander collects.
We will never completely eradicate these tiny bugs from our homes, but we can at least reduce their populations. The recommendations to repel cockroaches will help keep our dust mite population down as well. Mites enjoy a humid environment, as they can absorb water from the air, so reducing humidity as we did for mold is going to help us eradicate dust mites as well.
Dust mites may be the most common cause of allergies and asthma in the world. Symptoms of mite allergies are similar to those for cockroach allergies. Symptoms of asthmas include difficulty breathing, a tight or painful chest, a whistling or wheezing sound when breathing out and disturbed sleeping due to shortness of breath, coughing or wheezing. There are some things you can do to keep the mites in check.
Cover mattresses and pillows in allergen-impermeable covers with pores too small to allow them or their excrement to enter. Wash clothes and especially bedding in a wash hot enough to kill them. Don’t install carpets and buy rugs and carpets that are washable (preferably in a hot wash). Don’t rely on your vacuum cleaner to help you eradicate the problem; most of the dust mites live too deep into your carpets and fabrics to be reached by your vacuum.
Food allergies are an abnormal immune response to specific foods. Food intolerance differs from allergic reactions, where people either struggle to easily digest certain foods – milk and wheat are common causes of intolerance, or show skin problems such as eczema. The symptoms of an allergy are quickly apparent while those of intolerance take time to manifest. Although the symptoms may not be as severe as allergies can be, intolerances can be as disruptive as any allergy.
Milk, shellfish, nuts, and wheat are among the most common foods that cause allergies. Symptoms, which can include asthma, hives or rashes, vomiting, diarrhea and swelling round the mouth, can be severe and may include difficulty breathing or collapse. It is believed that around 4 to 8% of people have at least one food allergy, varying across a wide spectrum of severity.
They are more common in children (especially boys) than adults, with the prevalence increasing in developing countries. There is a genetic aspect to food allergies, and children of parents with food allergies have a much higher chance of having one. Try your child on small amounts of foods that are well-known allergens, then wait and see how they respond. Be particularly careful with foods known to cause severe reactions in some people, like nuts and shellfish.
Educate your child as much as possible if they have a food allergy. Allergenics appear as ingredients in some surprising foods! Always keep the appropriate treatments to hand, including an EpiPen. Children may outgrow minor food intolerances or allergies, such as milk or wheat, so re-test these foods carefully as they grow. Children with severe reactions to things like nuts or shellfish will always have that allergy.
While perfume comes to mind under this rubric, many ordinary household items that contain fragrances of one kind or another. Think of soaps and shampoos; cleaning products and air fresheners; as well as laundry detergents, cosmetics, and scented candles. Allergic reactions to these products vary across the people who encounter them, and the variety of chemicals involved, which makes it hard to offer a standardized description of this allergy.
There are about 100 chemicals in common use as fragrances, but 5,000 chemicals that fall under this banner. Symptoms vary from mild to severe, but usually ease immediately away from the scent. For some, symptoms get worse the more often the fragrance is encountered. Many scientists argue that fragrances are an irritant rather than an allergen. Irritants do not impact the immune system but irritate sensitive membranes such as the skin or the sinus system.
The most common symptom is sneezing, but symptoms such as contact dermatitis, asthma, and headaches, among the many others, often require medical help or advice. Around 2-4% of people react badly to require medical attention, but up to 30% of the population declare themselves sensitive to some fragrance or other, with 20% of people reacting to air fresheners, and 10% to laundry detergents.
Products marked “fragrance-free” may still contain some fragrance chemical or another, although they don’t usually cause the same problems. People who suffer from asthma or whose sinuses are inflamed through illness are often more sensitive to fragrances. The best way to deal with this problem is simply to try and stay away from these chemicals. This means identifying and eschewing products which produce symptoms for you, buying fragrance-free products over others where possible.
Cell phone use causes a number of medical problems, from car crashes to bumps and bruises from not paying attention to where you walk. Here we are only interested in the allergic reaction some people experience from talking too much on the phone. Nickel, cobalt, and chromium in the phone case can all cause contact dermatitis if the phone is held to your ear for extended periods, with nickel identified as the most common villain.
Nickel-related Allergic Contact Dermatitis (ACD) usually affects wearers of jewelry. A lot of gold-plated jewelry, such as pierced earrings has nickel content and up to 17% of American women and 3% of men have suffered symptoms. Certain phones with a metal casing are the main cause of ACD, with around 10% of people showing a sensitivity to nickel. Extended talking or typing can cause, red, itchy ears, cheekbones or hands.
Other symptoms of prolonged use include dry, itchy skin like eczema, redness, blistering, lesions, and even oozing on the face or ears, but most of these are rare. Carrying the phone close to your skin can also cause ACD, such as girls tucking their phone into their bras, or thighs when they are kept in pockets. It will surprise nobody to know that more than half those diagnosed were teenagers.
The first case of ACD was diagnosed in 2000, with a 40% increase in cases in the short period from 2010 to 2012. Preventative measures are obvious: Consider purchasing a phone with a non-metallic frame, use a headset for phone calls or buy a protective plastic cover that covers the face of the phone as well as the back. Many phone manufacturers have stopped using metal casings.
Black Henna Tattoos
You have probably seen the gorgeous designs that are drawn on the hands of Hindu brides, among others. Many people would love to take the opportunity to have their hands similarly decorated at fairs and festivals. To be clear, real henna is not black but burnt orange or brown in color. Henna temporarily stains the skin a dark red color. The paste used by those offering black henna temporary tattoos.
The main culprit in the black “henna” is a chemical called para-phenylenediamine (PPD), which is usually an ingredient in hair dye. In commercial products like hair color, it is strictly controlled. Home dye kits carry explicit instruction and warning about how the dye is managed, with plastic gloves to protect the hands and clear instructions and warnings about how long the dye should stay in the hair.
Some people can still react badly to hair dye even after following the instructions to the letter. Hobby henna artists, however, are not controlled. Some people react to the PDD with a burning sensation. Some people may feel a little discomfort, such as burning or tingling, while others experience real chemical burns, with severe pain, swelling, redness, and blisters. Some people now have the shape of the original pattern of the henna design etched into their skin by burn tissue!
Even in less severe cases, a bad reaction to a henna tattoo can leave you sensitized or oven allergic to PPD and you may experience an adverse reaction in the future when you use hair dye, even though you have used it before. So always carry out the allergy test prescribed in the instructions even though you have used the hair dye before.
While many people joke about being “allergic to exercise” it is a real, though rare, phenomenon. It is called Exercise-induced anaphylaxis (EIA). It is often triggered by vigorous exercise, but cases exist where merely walking or gardening was sufficient to induce an attack. Often, certain additional factors other than exercise contribute to the attack, such as certain foods, alcohol, temperature, drugs (e.g., aspirin and other nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs), humidity, seasonal changes, and hormonal changes can all contribute to the attack.
Often different combinations of factors can precipitate an attack. While food is often a factor, the attacks only occur where both factors contribute. Foods which are often implicated in allergies are frequently implicated as co-factors here, although many other foods can help instigate an attack. In one case, a combination of two specific foods was required to instigate an attack. In other cases, any food at all would suffice.
Sometimes the co-factor has been an inhalant such as those related more to hay fever or other allergies. Just to add to the confusion, there is some evidence that genetics may also play a part and that a susceptibility for EIA may be inherited. As yet, we do not fully understand the interplay of the many factors which can contribute to EIA. Attacks are often not caused by the same co-factors.
Treatment is limited to reducing and monitoring exercise levels and trying to tie down trigger factors in individuals. Scientists believe that the confusion of factors involve may mean that the prevalence of the disorder has been underreported in the past and that more people are affected by the condition. Indeed, they believe that the incidence of the ailment is increasing.
Cold urticaria or Cold Hives, is a condition where hives or weals are induced on the skin by cold or wet weather, after swimming in cold water or even with some ice cubes. Sweat cooling on the skin on a hot day may be enough to initiate an attack. In fact, any quick reduction in temperature may be enough to start an attack after only a few minutes of exposure.
These hives may remain for a minute or two or up to a few days. Other symptoms can include swollen or red hands. Although these are common reactions to cold, the hands will swell under minor inducement, such as holding a cold glass. Equally, red hands which stay red for longer are another diagnostic measure. Severe cases begin to show symptoms of dizziness or even anaphylactic shock, although rarely to a life-threatening degree.
It is estimated that only one person in a million suffer from this disorder to a degree where they are diagnosed with the disorder, but between 15 and 25% of people may experience the disorder during their lives, though usually so mildly that they may not even notice. The weals usually itch, as may the hands and feet, which may also swell. There seems to be a genetic factor to the condition, although other cases show no familial precedent.
As yet, there is no scientific explanation as to why people suffer from this disorder. Antihistamine treatments are effectively prescribed for this condition. Under medical supervision, patients should try and establish the conditions which will induce an attack by looking at factors like temperature thresholds and the length of exposure required to induce an attack in order to help people manage their condition adequately.
Some caterpillars, such as the gypsy moth, have hairs or fibers on their body which can break off, embed themselves in human skin, and irritate or transmit a toxin into the skin. Magnified, the barbed hairs resemble tiny versions of a porcupine’s quills, except that they contain a poison sac. Usually, it is necessary to touch the caterpillar to be stung, as the hairs are completely defensive and cannot be actively administered; but sometimes loose hairs can also cause irritation.
Most cases are caused by accidentally brushing against a caterpillar, although children may find these baroque caterpillars too fascinating to ignore. Sometimes loose hairs can be inhaled, causing breathing problems; or even injure an eye. Touching some species of these caterpillars may cause only a mild tingling sensation, while touching other species may cause instant pain, followed by irritation for a period after and a raised, red weal or rash.
The severity of the injury depends partly on the sensitivity of the patient, the severity of the contact and the species of caterpillar. In most cases, symptoms are a reddening and swelling of the skin and small bumps which are gone within the hour. More severe symptoms may include itchiness, blistering, or eczema-like symptoms which may last for weeks.
Antihistamine or hydro cortisol creams are usually effective. In their absence, an ice pack or a paste of baking soda will usually provide relief. Placing a piece of tape, preferably duct tape, on the affected skin and then pulling it off sharply is a good way of removing the hairs embedded in the skin. Wash the area well and wash all clothes thoroughly to remove any loose hairs which may remain.