The Rarest Allergies in the World
Regardless of what allergy you have, any form of hypersensitivity is inconvenient at best and life-threatening at worst. Fortunately, the more common allergies have a modicum of public knowledge on their side, with the majority of allergens relatively avoidable in your daily life. Moreover, the more common your allergy is, the more medical research and treatment that is available to you and your doctor. But what do you do when your allergy is rare and the allergen is omnipresent?
Here’s a look at some of the world’s rarest, strangest, and most crippling allergies.
What Is an Allergy?
To put it simply, an allergy is developed when the body elicits an immune response to an otherwise benign substance, known as the allergen. This hypersensitivity is the result of antibodies that the immune system has formed in response to the allergen, having mistaken the allergen for a threat. The body then continues to release these antibodies every time the allergen comes in contact, triggering an allergic reaction where histamine is released. Histamine is the chemical responsible for the characteristic symptoms of allergies: itching, swelling, inflammation, coughing, and hives.
The most common types of allergies include:
- Respiratory allergies: These include common allergens such as pollen, mold, dust, air pollutants, chemical fumes, smoke, and pet dander.
- Food allergies: The “big eight” food allergies are shellfish, wheat, soy, milk, eggs, tree nuts, peanuts (ground nuts), and fish.
- Skin allergies: Patients with skin allergies develop a severe reaction when the allergen is exposed to the skin. Allergic reactions commonly take the form of hives (urticaria) or contact dermatitis, which can include rashes and blisters.
Theoretically, a patient could form an allergy to anything the immune system mistakes for a threat, from water to bodily fluids.
The Rarest (And Strangest) Allergies
The following allergies are, fortunately, extremely rare but, unfortunately, incredibly debilitating. However, like most allergies, most of these conditions can be treated with avoidance and antihistamines.
- Water: Medically known as aquagenic urticaria, patients with a water allergy develop painful hives and rashes when their skin is exposed to water. An allergic reaction will develop regardless of the water temperature, and even when the water is purified. However, the allergy is usually restricted to skin contact – most patients can still ingest water without consequence. In some cases, the condition is so severe that the patient will develop symptoms simply from sweating or crying. Signs of aquagenic urticaria usually present after the patient has reached puberty.
- Sunlight: A “sun allergy” is really a catch-all to describe a number of sun-related skin disorders, also known as photosensitivity or photodermatitis. Patients with sunlight sensitivities are more specifically allergic to the sun’s UV rays. Photodermatitis occurs when the body incites an immune reaction to sun exposure, resulting in rashes, hives, lesions, and blistering on the skin. The most common form of sunlight allergy is polymorphous light eruption (PMLE), in which a bumpy rash develops after sun exposure. A sunlight allergy could indicate a number of underlying medical conditions, and can be caused by various factors.
- Sweat: Cholinergic urticaria (CU), or sweat allergy, is a condition in which the patient develops hives or wheals on the skin in response to sweating. Most cases of cholinergic urticaria are mild, albeit obstructive to exercise and sports activities.
- Cold Weather: Cold urticaria is an allergic reaction to cold weather and temperature. Patients who are allergic to the cold develop hives when their skin is exposed to certain temperatures for a period of time. These reactions can range from mild to severe, and in extreme cases cause a systemic reaction resulting in death. This condition most commonly affects young adults, and often clears up within a few years. Like most allergies, it can be treated with antihistamines and avoiding triggering conditions.
- Vibrations: Vibratory urticaria is when a patient develops hives in response to exposure to vibrations against the skin, which elicits an immune response. Triggers can be as random as running or a rough car ride. While this condition is rare, researchers speculate that there is a genetic component
- Hormones: It is even possible for the immune system to react to the body’s own hormonal changes. Studies have indicated that some women experience allergic symptoms that coincide with their menstrual cycles, leading to asthmatic episodes and dermatitis. Evidence has found antibodies that form specifically against the hormones estrogen and progesterone.
Allergy Relief with Dr. Shukla
No matter how rare or strange your allergy may be, Dr. Mayank Shukla will devise a specialized treatment plan to keep your allergy symptoms under control. Dr. Mayank Shukla has over 15 years of experience treating asthma and allergy patients in New York, specializing in pediatric patients. Schedule a consultation at the Asthma Allergy Sleep Center of New York today for long-lasting allergy relief.