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Ears, Nose and Throat, Healthy Living, Immune System

Did You Know that You Can Develop Allergies even When You Didn’t Have them as a Child?

A few months ago, two cases of allergy were brought to my attention from two women who both said they were unexpected – the reason being for this blog, which is by the way long overdue.

One of the two women had a bothersome itch on her neck, while the other had a near death experience with her husband who was rushed to the hospital due to anaphylactic shock. In both instances though, one thing was common – both individuals never had any history of allergy in the past. So, what just happened?

Upon probing, it turned out that the first woman vacuumed her house in the middle of a hot summer day, and only after a few hours, she developed red rashes on her neck that felt itchy. My analysis: the vacuuming stirred up the dust particles into the air making its way to her nostrils. This gave easy access for the allergens found in the waste products of the dust mites to enter her body, leading to an unexpected allergic reaction.

The husband, on the other hand, ate mackerel sushi for dinner that the wife bought from a local supermarket and prepared personally. This fish according to her is a usual viand in their home, so she had the slightest idea that this would cause her husband’s near death experience. Imagine her shock when after a few hours, her husband suddenly lost consciousness while preparing for bed that night. She recalled feeling so scared and confused while calling for the emergency services. My analysis: her husband had what is called, Scombroid Fish Poisoning. Here is a detailed explanation of this condition:

“This is an allergy like reaction that occurs after eating fish that have been improperly refrigerated after capture. Bacteria in and on the fish break down proteins into histamine, one of the major mediators of allergic reactions. Fish with a high content of red meat, which turns brown upon cooking are commonly involved such as mackerel, tuna, king fish, herring, sardines, marlin, anchovies and bluefish. Affected fish often have a metallic or peppery taste. Symptoms usually commence within 30 minutes of eating, and include flushing, itch, hives (urticaria), nausea, vomiting, stomach cramps, dizziness, palpitations and headache. Severe episodes may result in wheezing and dizziness or a drop in blood pressure.” Australian Society of Clinical Immunology and Allergy

Factors that Trigger Adult Onset Allergy:

Genetic History

An allergy can occur anytime during your lifetime if you have the dormant antibodies in your body, and yes, even if you didn’t have them during your childhood.

Exposure to High Levels of the Allergen

Sometimes, exposure to small levels of an allergen does not cause any reaction, but high titers of the same will cause moderate to severe allergic reactions.

Compromised Immune System

A poor immune system is not a very good defense in combating the effects of allergens during an allergic reaction process.

Allergies are common occurrences that can manifest in many ways such as rhinitis, asthma, skin rashes, dermatitis or in more serious cases anaphylaxis. Whatever the cause, however, points to a particular allergen as the culprit. In the medical community we call it “antigen-antibody reaction” where a foreign object or allergen, referred to as the “antigen” triggers an attack to a person who has a dormant antibody.  Once triggered, the “antibody” cascades a host of reactions in response to the “antigen”, which can vary from a simple rash to a fatal anaphylactic shock.

“The term atopic allergy implies a familial tendency to manifest such conditions as asthma, rhinitis, urticaria, and eczematous dermatitis (atopic dermatitis) alone or in combination. However, individuals without an atopic background may also develop hypersensitivity reactions, particularly urticaria and anaphylaxis, associated with the same class of antibody, IgE, found in atopic individuals. Inasmuch as the mast cell is the key effector cell of the biologic response in allergic rhinitis, urticaria, anaphylaxis, and systemic mastocytosis, the introduction to these clinical problems will consider the developmental biology, activation pathway, product profile, and target tissues for this cell type.” Harrison’s Principles of Internal Medicine, 17th Edition

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Know your “Asthma Triggers”

What should be done to avoid such fateful episodes?

  1. Dig in your family’s health history. If you have anyone among your relatives from (at least) the past two generations who had a history of allergy in any form, chances are, you might also have this dormant antibody genotype.
  2. Take a mental note of any incidence that caused you symptoms like rashes, sneezing, stomach upset, eye irritation and other unusual episodes that are not directly related to any bacterial or viral exposure. These incidents might give you a clue of possible antigens or “trigger allergens“.
  3. Avoid exposure to your “trigger allergens” at all cost.
  4. Invest in your health and keep your immune system in constant optimal condition. You can do this by eating healthy, exercising regularly, sleeping sufficiently, hydrating adequately, avoiding stress and keeping well-nourished cells.

It’s difficult to say when an allergy will hit just like what these two women experienced; especially when the cause or trigger is unknown. In these cases, however, both persons probably have the dormant antibody that reacted instantly upon exposure to the allergen. So, I’d say that the best way to avoid an allergic reaction is to be informed of your health exposure and risk factors.

The prudent understand where they are going and they carefully consider their steps. Proverbs 14: 8, 15 (NLT)

Resources:
Anaphylaxis: http://www.aaaai.org/conditions-and-treatments/allergies/anaphylaxis.aspx
Dust Mites: https://www.aafa.org/display.cfm?id=9&sub=18&cont=228
Allergic and toxic reactions to seafood: http://www.allergy.org.au/patients/food-allergy/allergic-and-toxic-reactions-to-seafood

Media Credits:
Dust Mites: http://www.pestfreeliving.ca/blog/wp-content/uploads/2015/04/7020081293_00a1f35a2a.jpg
Dust Mite Allergy: http://www.aamfoundation.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/03/girl-with-back-rash.jpg
Scombroid Poisoning: http://image.slidesharecdn.com/foodpoisoning-120213022212-phpapp01/95/food-poisoning-21-728.jpg?cb=1329101316
Mackerel: http://paleodiet.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2013/09/mackerel.jpg
Asthma Triggers: http://www.smerete.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/06/Smerete_Types_Of_Asthma.png