Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : April 21st 2016 Contents B34
body & soul
Guardian www.guardian.co.tt Thursday, April 21, 2016
YOUR DAILY HEALTH
News and Advice
Everybody knows somebody with an allergy to
pollen, dust, pet dander, or peanuts. But you may
be surprised about some of the lesser known mate-
rials, foods, or environments that can cause allergic
reactions in certain people.
An allergic reaction occurs when the body misreads
something that s typically harmless as being dangerous,
explains Kevin McGrath, MD, spokesman for the
American College of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunol-
"The immune system creates special white blood
cells, called antibodies, to defend against this apparent
threat similarly to how it would fight an infection or
illness," he says. That s where symptoms like swelling,
itching, runny nose, and wheezing come in.
People must be born with a genetic predisposition
to allergies, but scientists don t know exactly why or
how they become allergic to specific things. And while
many allergens are quite common, others are much
rarer. Here are some interesting cases.
Inexpensive silver-coloured jewelry is often made
with nickel---one of the most common causes of an
itchy rash known as allergic contact dermatitis. About
17 per cent of women and three per cent of men have
a nickel allergy, says Dr McGrath; the gender difference
is because women have more exposure to nickel
through jewelry (especially piercings).
Switching to high-quality sterling silver or 14-karat
gold jewelry usually solves this problem.
Cell phones and tablets
People with metal allergies may have trouble using
cellular phones, PDAs, and tablet devices, as these
products often contain potential allergens nickel and
cobalt. "People can get rashes on their face, ears, and
hands, and irritation in the eyes if they touch their
phone and then touch their eyes," says Dr McGrath.
Once you have a metal allergy, you re sensitive to
it for life. But most people are able to safely use these
devices as long as they re covered with a protective
case---as long as the case itself contains no metal, of
Nickel strikes again, this time on your clothing.
"The button on the waist of jeans and other pants
is usually nickel," says Dr McGrath. "For people who
wear low-rise underwear, that metal can be exposed
directly on the skin and cause a little circular red
Wearing a layer between your pants and your skin
(like tucking in your shirt) can help, he says; so can
painting over the back of the button with clear nail
polish. If you do realise you re sensitive to the nickel
in your jeans, watch out for it in eyeglass frames,
watches, coins and zippers.
We know, wool is itchy. But some people who are
sensitized to lanolin---a natural wax-like substance
produced by sheep---can react even more strongly to
apparel and blankets made with wool. Lanolin is also
used in some cosmetics, lip balms, shampoos, and
ointments. People with a sensitivity to this ingredient
should look for items that are labelled lanolin-free.
Flea market furniture
If you have a known allergy to dust or mould, be
careful what items you bring into your home---espe-
cially if you don t know their history or what could
be lurking inside them. "Non-washable fabrics, uphol-
stered furniture, and carpets can all harbour dust
mites and mould spores," says Donna Hummell, MD,
medical director of the Vanderbilt University Asthma,
Sinus, and Allergy Program, USA.
Some ingredients in laundry detergents and fabric softeners---espe-
cially dyes and scents---can cause allergies. And you don t just have
to get the liquid itself on your skin; it can be transferred into the
clothes you wear, the towels you use, or the sheets you sleep on.
Averse reactions to strong scents or flavours (like sneezing or
coughing after eating hot pepper) are often caused by an irritant
effect, rather than a true allergy, says Dr McGrath.
But he does occasionally have patients who develop a true
immune-system response to plant-based products like herbs, spices,
and essential oils.
"One thing we see is allergic reactions to camomile tea, because
it can cross-react with ragweed," he says.
Could you be allergic to these everyday things?
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