5 uncommon allergies

Susannah Hickling

Forget pollen; it’s possible to have an allergy to all sorts of everyday, inconvenient things

The sun

Admittedly, this isn’t such an issue in this country compared to those with warmer climes. And it’s indeed a rare allergy. Those affected react to ultraviolet light and come out in hives. It’s even possible for UV from fluorescent bulbs to trigger it. People who are allergic to the sun need to cover up from head to toe. Much more common, though, is polymorphous light eruption, or good old-fashioned heat rash. It’s not dangerous, just a pain.

 

Latex

Products containing latex include rubber gloves, rubber bands, balloons and condoms. Symptoms vary from mild itching and hives to hay fever symptoms and wheezing to full-blown anaphylactic shock with dizziness, difficulty breathing, a drop in blood pressure, swelling around the throat and possible collapse. You will need to wear synthetic rubber or PVC gloves and avoid all latex products.

 

Semen

If you think a latex allergy might be bad for your sex life, then imagine what life is like for people who have a reaction to semen. It’s rarer than a latex allergy, but for some people who have unprotected sex, semen can cause a mild allergic reaction such as irritation, redness and swelling or even life-threatening anaphylaxis. The allergic reaction is usually caused by a protein in semen. Using a condom during intercourse will fix the issue.

 

Jewellery 

It’s well known that wearing cheap bling can give you a green rash but, in fact, any metal alloy—even when you’re wearing expensive jewellery—can cause oxidisation which leads to contact allergy. Nickel is a common culprit. And it’s not just women who suffer. Nickel in men’s belt buckles and even the change in their trouser pockets can have the same effect. Platinum and stainless steel are less likely to cause an allergic reaction, though.

 

Water

Can you really be allergic to life-sustaining H2O? Well, kind of, is the answer. Aquagenic urticaria is a case of acute hives provoked by exposure to water, though it’s probably caused by bacterial proteins on the skin getting wet. A different condition, cold-induced urticaria, is a reaction to the temperature of the water. This can be very dangerous—diving into ice-cold water, for example, can cause the blood vessels in the skin to become porous and leak. Fluid escapes into surrounding tissue and blood pressure falls. This can lead to loss of consciousness and drowning.