Allergies can have bizarre triggers. They can stop you from working out, bathing, making phone calls…and even having sex
Hard as it is to believe, things that are routine to most of us fill some with dread. A small percentage of people suffer from the most uncommon allergies — water, cell phones and even sex. While an allergy to exercise can be a godsend, Dr Suresh V Rang, the chest and allergy specialist at Lilavati Hospital, tells us about other surprising ones that make life unusually difficult.
Medically known as Aquagenic Urticaria, these allergic reactions burst forth every time one comes in contact with water — when you shower or wash your hands. “This condition triggers a reaction on exposure to water of any temperature,” says Rang.
Symptoms develop within minutes and include itching, burning or a prickly sensation. Most times the skin remains intact, although a faint, itchy red rash may appear across the chest, back, arms or legs. “The symptoms can be acute or chronic, stretching to six weeks or more,” says Rang.
It is not clear why some bodies react adversely to this essential element. Some doctors believe it to be due to the skin’s extreme sensitivity towards a foreign element (chlorine, fluoride, etc.) or minerals present in the water. Rang differs, saying, “We have seen people react even to distilled water!”
In mild cases, contact with water can be tackled with a steady diet of antihistamines, but there have been some cases where even a foggy day can let loose welts and blisters.
Those extremely allergic to water can even react to bodily fluids that contain it such as blood, sweat and tears, causing the skin to break out in hives or red rashes. As for treatment, Rang says, “We usually prescribe antiallergic drugs, one can also go for immunotherapy after allergic testing.”
Prescription: More sex
Some women are allergic to seminal fluid due to a condition called Human seminal plasma hypersensitivity. This occurs when the white blood cells turn against the proteins in the semen. In a case of mistaken identity, the blood cells believe these proteins to be invading bacteria or viruses. Along with itchiness, redness and swelling, semen allergies can also cause infertility and figure in 5 to 25 per cent of couples with fertility issues. The symptoms are often misdiagnosed as sexually transmitted diseases. The allergy’s only real indicator is that the symptoms show up within minutes of contact.
The upside is that desensitisation can help alleviate symptoms, and desensitisation means more sex. To desensitise a woman’s immune system against semen, she can receive shots containing small amounts of semen over the course of several weeks.
Touch me not
We are social creatures who are used to physical contact. But for some, the pressure of touch or a scratch brings up welts and hives. “Pressure Urticaria usually occurs after three to six hours of touch,” says Rang. Dermatographism, another type of allergy that occurs due to pressure, literally means ‘writing on skin’. If you have this allergy, your body becomes a paper you can write on. The cause is unknown, but it’s estimated that 2 to 5 per cent of the population has it.
Exercise can kill
The symptoms of Exercise Induced Anaphylaxis or EIA range from hives to breathlessness, nausea, diarrhoea, faintness and low blood pressure and can linger for hours. At its worst, this can trigger a full Anaphylactic shock and even cause death. What makes EIA unique is that it requires not one, but two triggers. Only exercising won’t invite EIA, unless the secondary trigger — a particular type of food, alcohol, or weather — teams up against you.
Allergists and dermatologists have been busy fixing an increasing number of itchy rashes or painful blisters along the jaw, cheek and ear caused by cell phone usage. But in cell phone allergy or mobile phone dermatitis, the real culprit is the nickel in the handsets. Increased usage of cell phones leads to prolonged exposure to this metal used in buttons, LCD screen frames and headsets.
Nickel allergy affects more women than men, as they are likely to have been sensitised to nickel due to ear piercing. There’s really no way around this allergy except to avoid the metal itself.
Source: Times of India