Fifty million Americans suffer from allergies. Stephany is allergic to peanut butter, and Brent sneezes every time he visits his grandmother's house. Six million kids wheeze daily and struggle to retrieve oxygen. Ironically, six million kids also have food allergies, with those numbers more than doubling in adults.
Broken down below, are what I deem to be the most common allergy types and a couple of intriguing details on each. How many of these categories do you fall into?
15 million people are allergic to foods due to proteins that cause an exaggerated immune response. But the more interesting fact is that most -about 70%- of people who are allergic to birch wood pollen also exhibit allergic reactions when eating foods with cross-reaction proteins that birch pollen shares. Foods like apples, celery, carrots, and peaches all share the same plant proteins with birch wood. Just a neat fact.
About 10% of the world's population has a drug allergy of some kind. To top it off, many pharmaceutical drugs are terrible for you. If your immune system is reacting to protect you, can you really call that an unnecessary immune response? Afterall, an allergy is considered an overreaction by the immune system. But if you're being poisoned by Accutane (click HERE to learn more), I don't really think your body is "overreacting." There are serious drug allergy reactions, and then there's toxic chemicals.
Seasonal allergic conjunctivitis (SAC) is the most common eye allergy which anyone with pollen allergies can get. Indoor and outdoor allergens like cat dander or exhaust fumes can spark eye allergies as well. But if I've learned anything worthwhile, it's that when one part of your body is off track, so is the rest of you. No one just has eye allergies alone; it is a part of a more significant response by your body. If your eyes are itching, then I'll bet ya five dollars your nose is too.
A lot of things can cause skin allergies like drugs or particular foods. It's interesting to note again that the body falls together and heals together. If you ate an allergic food in the spring- let's say shellfish-you could experience several allergic responses. You'd have a reaction to the annual rise in pollen, a response to the allergic food you just consumed, possibly a skin reaction, and maybe even a drug reaction when you're treated in the physician's office.
Did you wake up congested this morning? Is your nose stuffy or running? Sinus allergies are much more than a stuffy nose and can be the cause of recurring sinus infections, headaches and honest to goodness head pain. Here's another example of the repeating theme of allergies encompassing more than just one area of the body.
People who are allergic to latex are actually allergic to a protein in the rubber tree (Hevea brasiliensis) sap that's used to make natural latex. If you're allergic to one plant protein, then you'll be allergic to others that have similar proteins. In the case of latex allergy, most people also have a sensitivity to apples, carrots, kiwi, melons, and tomatoes.
The same amount of people who have drug allergies also have pet allergies, that's 10% of the population. To prove that allergies aren't lacking humor, twice as many people are allergic to cats as they are dogs; maybe that's why more people like dogs.
If you're allergic to pets, you're actually reacting to the proteins found in the animals:
Dander (dead skin cells)
Yellow jackets, hornets, fire ants, bees and even mosquitoes can ruin your day if you're one of the two million people who are allergic to them. Most of us are just responding to the venom, but it IS venom, it's supposed to make you swell and itch, that's kinda the point. Few people go into anaphylactic shock from insect venom, but it's entirely possible.
A significant portion of asthma cases involves dust allergy. But people aren't allergic to dust, they're allergic to dust mites- the tiny creatures that eat dust. If folks were allergic to their own dead skin cells that would be terribly peculiar; instead they're allergic to the hundreds of thousands of tiny bugs that are living in their towels, beds, pillows, sofas, and even clothes. Maybe mom was right when she said it wasn't healthy to have an unkempt room.
Did you know that mold allergy often shows up as muscle pain? How would you ever know? People suffering from airborne mold allergy also have reactions to common foods containing mold. Fermented foods, dried fruit or cheese can cause an allergic response.
Folks suffering from a mold allergy don't just have to worry about keeping their bathrooms clean, they have to watch out for the foods they consume as well. If Andrea has a perfectly clean house, she could still get fatigued and endure muscle pain from cheese, wine, and crackers that she ate with the girls on Saturday night, from an unknown mold allergy.
Saving the best for last, pollen allergy is the most common allergy worldwide, with ragweed, birch wood, and grass being the most offensive. Stopping to smell the flowers isn't the only way an allergic response can happen; consuming foods with similar pan-allergens will do the same. If you're a part of the 40% that gets seasonal grass allergies, you may also want to avoid bananas, citrus fruits, melons, and tomatoes in the height of pollen season.
There's a clear link between all allergies,, and most people experience them at the same time. There are compounding factors that can make allergies worse and a variety of factors that make it hard to distinguish the real cause of your ailment.
If it was March and you ate a fruit and cheese brunch in the park with your grandma's old picnic basket, what caused your allergy? Was it the food, the pollen, the mold, or the dust?
When you know that allergies are intertwined, we can make more informed choices to prevent them. And the one thing these allergies types all have in common is that what you eat really does make a difference in how you feel, especially during allergy season.