Types of Allergies

Posted by Kayla Phillips on

It is hard to categorize allergies into one group, because they come in so many different shapes and sizes. There are many types of allergies one may develop. Allergies also affect people in diverse ways. What many people believe to be allergies more commonly are sensitivities that, when properly treated, may resolve themselves with a little TLC.

This article will cover some of the more common “types” of allergies people have or develop. We’ll start with an overview of food allergies, since a growing number of people are discovering they have food sensitivities and allergies throughout the world.

Since most people expose themselves to various foods each day, it is important you understand how relevant food allergies and sensitivities are to your overall health and wellness.

Food Allergies 

Food allergies and sensitivities are among the most common in the world today. People are exposed to foods every day. Most people also do not eat the types of foods our bodies were necessarily designed to eat; if you think about it, in times of old there was no such thing as “processed” foods. Most people ate what was available in nature. It is likely that back in early times, food allergies and sensitivities were almost unheard of.

Much of the food we eat today, however, is processed, handled, manipulated, and changed from its natural state. The addition of food processing has correlated with increasing levels of food sensitivities and true allergies among people throughout the world. There are even some studies suggesting the pasteurization process, which is supposed to make milk and other products safer to eat, may contribute to food sensitivities.

The American College of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology, with the Food & Drug Administration, suggest between 1 and 2 percent of people develop allergies while adults, while up to 6 percent of children develop allergies before the age of five. That means food allergies are more likely to develop early in life than they are later in life, though it is possible to develop an allergy as an adult even if you never had one as a child.

Why the disparity? Often children are far more sensitive to food allergens than adults, in part because of their immature digestive and immune systems. This is especially the case during infancy. Most doctors and other healthcare providers recommend parents avoid feeding their children anything other than breast milk or formula until the child is four months, but usually at least six months old.

After this time, foods should be introduced slowly, so parents can detect whether their child may have food sensitivities. Offering children foods, they are sensitive can frequently lead to a host of problems, including eczema, GERD (short for gastro-esophageal reflux disease), irritability, colic and eventually a true, potentially life-threatening food allergy resulting in an anaphylactic reaction.

Food allergies occur when the body’s immune system mistakenly believes that the foods, we eat pose a threat to our health.

The immune system flairs up to protect the body from the “supposed” intruder. This response is an allergy, with symptoms ranging from mild nausea and discomfort to diarrhea, vomiting or in very severe cases, anaphylaxis.

If anaphylaxis occurs, a person’s airways may become constricted, causing an emergent, life-threatening event. Food allergies are more likely than other allergies to cause anaphylactic reactions, and can come suddenly, even on first contact with a food. Medical attention is always critical in cases like this. Peanut Butter is an example of a food that often causes anaphylactic reactions in allergy-prone people; seafood is another.

This is one reason many airlines stopped serving peanuts, because people who are allergic to peanuts may experience a reaction just by being close to, or breathing in remnants of, peanuts. While it is rare for people to have this severe food sensitivity, it can happen, and if it does, it is especially important the person with the sensitivity take great care to protect themselves.

Most people who have true food allergies develop them while they are children or have sensitivity early in life that develops into a full-blown allergy later in life after repeated exposure to the known irritant. Many healthcare providers recommend parents avoid giving their children certain highly allergenic foods until after they are two years old, to lessen their chances of developing allergies.

 The primary foods to avoid according to the ACAAI and FDA include: 

  • Peanuts, including peanut butters or products manufactured with peanuts.
  • Milk or dairy products; soy for some children, especially those with a family history of food allergies.
  • Eggs
  • Other nuts, including walnuts
  • Wheat and gluten, and
  • Fish, shellfish, or other seafood

Of course, this list is not comprehensive, and an individual can become sensitive to any product there is to eat. The foods least likely to cause allergic reactions include rice (which is one reason rice cereal is often the first food given to children) and some natural whole foods including some vegetables that are non-acidic (like potatoes).

Why is it that some children develop allergies and others do not? Researchers believe that one’s tendency to develop allergies is linked with their family history and genetics.

Other factors that may contribute to the likelihood of allergies may include whether a child or adult has an impaired immune system, the result of an auto­immune disorder or other illness. A child born premature may be more at risk for developing food sensitivities than one born at full gestation, simply because their immune and digestive systems are far more underdeveloped than their older peers. 

There is a strong chance that if parents have some food allergies, their children will too. A common sign of food allergies in children is eczema.

Eczema and Allergies 

Food allergies and sensitivities may present themselves in many ways. One of the most common ways food allergies and sensitivities show up is through skin disorders, the most common of which is eczema.

Eczema is a common condition that results in red patches on the skin that may crust up or ooze and itch. The skin may appear raw and irritated during flares. Eczema may appear anywhere on the body but is most common in places like under the knees, on the elbows, on the face and in patches on the arms or stomach.

Eczema may result from allergies to specific foods or sensitivities to foods, or from products like soap that contain artificial ingredients. Someone with eczema may have very mild symptoms that come and go and worsen only when the person eats or exposes their body to a product or food, they have a sensitivity too.

Usually, a child or an adult can easily relieve their symptoms by finding out which food or other product they are sensitive to and eliminating it from their diet.

A common irritant among children is oats. Keep in mind if your child is sensitive to oats, many over-the-county baby bath products, including lotions, contain oats, so you will have to be careful to avoid bathing your baby in them if your baby has eczema and you know they are sensitive to oats or related grains.

You may be eating oats to help boost your milk production, but if your baby is sensitive to oats and you are breastfeeding, you may pass on the oats you eat through your breast milk. The same is true of other foods your baby may be sensitive to, so keep this in mind as a parent if you plan to breastfeed your child.

Certain foods more commonly cause eczema than others, these include soy, milk, oats, nuts, eggs, and nut butters. Corn is another food product many children are commonly sensitive to. Corn is in many products, even in most cereals you may not expect. You may find you have to limit your child’s diet to mostly rice products, even rice milk for a brief time until you identify all the known culprits in their skin condition.

While you won’t cure eczema by avoiding foods you are sensitive or allergic to, you can greatly reduce the severity and number of flare ups you experience.

Remember, genetics plays a significant role in one’s chances of developing food sensitivities and allergies. If a child’s parents both have allergies, they are much more likely to be sensitive to foods than if one or the other parent has a food allergy. Other allergies, such as allergies to cats, other animals or plants may also trigger food allergies in children.

Allergy Controversy 

Thus far we have recommended that if you know you are allergic to or sensitive to something, you avoid it. We also recommended, based on case precedent and historical recommendations from societies including the CDC and the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology that you avoid exposing your children to known irritants for the first two years of life, when their immune and digestive systems are most sensitive.

Even though this is the case, of late some researchers have been trying to prove otherwise. For every scientific study recommending parents take one approach to avoiding allergies, another will surface saying something else.

While most pediatricians recommend children avoid allergenic foods until they are older than 2 years, there are other studies now suggesting exposing children to food allergens early in life may help develop their immune systems, so they are more likely to ward off allergies later.

For example, one study published in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology found children exposed to food allergens earlier in life had more tolerance for them later.

If your child demonstrates severe allergy symptoms however, including vomiting, diarrhea, nausea, respiratory distress, or any other alarming symptoms, talk with your doctor immediately about the possibility of food allergies. They may recommend a special diet until the source of your child’s symptoms is clearly identified.

Some children who have food sensitivities early in childhood grow into adults that do not have allergies to foods. The opposite is also true. Many adults now find that the foods they once enjoyed are causing them to have uncomfortable, allergy-like symptoms, or worse, full-blown allergies.

Why the sudden change? The jury is still out. Some theorists suggest that our bodies are so over polluted by daily exposure to environmental toxins that people in general are simply more susceptible to allergies later in life.

If someone eats too much of anything, it is possible they can develop a sensitivity to this product even if for a brief time. Keep in mind that you should consider every study and tidbit of information you read, including the information in this guide, with your skeptic’s hat in place.

When in doubt, do your homework, and rely on the advice of your pediatrician or your family physician.

How to Identify a Food Allergy

How do you know if you or your child may have a food allergy? We’ve already talked about many of the telltale signs an individual will have if they have an allergy to a certain food product. Just look for the symptoms mentioned above.

With foods, digestive problems and skin problems are more common than are classic allergy symptoms, like the watery, itchy eyes and sneezing associated with allergies to environmental irritants.

If you notice gas or bloating after eating a particular food, you may be sensitive or allergic to it. If in doubt, you may consult with your healthcare provider to confirm for certain whether you are sensitive to a food product or not. 

Food Triggers – What They Are AND How to Avoid Them

The simplest way to avoid feeling bad or suffering from food allergies is to find out what foods trigger allergy symptoms in your body. You can find out what these triggers are easily by adopting an allergy elimination diet.

What this will usually involve is eating a very bland diet for a couple of weeks. You may usually eat foods including rice, vegetables, lean proteins (excluding eggs and fish) and certain broths.

Your healthcare provider may then suggest you reintroduce foods into your diet one at a time, introducing one new food every two to four days. Monitor how you feel during this time.

Do you experience gas or bloating?

Does the food make you nauseous?

Do you suddenly develop diarrhea or nausea?

If so, you may have food sensitivity or allergy.

You can repeat this and reintroduce foods until you determine what foods are most likely to cause allergic symptoms in your body. After doing this, you are best off avoiding these foods.

You can also consult with a qualified allergist and have a blood test conducted to find out what foods you are most likely to be allergic to. True food allergies may not show up in a blood test given to children before they are one or two years old, but most adults can benefit from them immediately.

Did you know? More than 50% of the population has some form of allergy; more than half of these don’t even know it!

It’s called the “Suffer in Silence” sickness. Perhaps you have unusual skin problems and are uncertain as to the cause. You may have trouble sleeping for example, and assume the cause of your problem is stress, not the food you ate just a few short hours ago.

You have been ailing for some time but can’t determine the reason. If you are experiencing any type of problem, you can’t find a logical answer for, consider having your doctor examine you for food allergies. Not surprisingly, they are one of the most common, yet “unknown” causes for many chronic ailments. Imagine how nice your life might be if all you had to do to feel better was make a quick change or two in your diet?

Other Common Allergens

Food allergies are but one of many different allergens. If you do have a food allergy, you may find you are prone to other types of common allergies.

Do you find you are consistently reaching for the Claritin? There are thousands of people living everyday with what most consider “common” allergies. These include allergies to substances other than food. Most of these allergies stem from exposure to environmental irritants, including indoor and outdoor “pollutants” and even natural or organic products in nature.

Some of the more common allergens include insects, pollen, plants, flowers, trees, and chemicals. Let’s take some time to review some of these more common allergens.

Common Allergens List

  • Ragweed – Often included in the pollen category, and inspires symptoms including itchy, watery eyes, runny noses, wheezing and coughing. For some, it may result in worsening asthma or other respiratory problems.
  • Cockroaches – Many insects, not just honeybees or spiders, can cause allergic reactions in people. A cockroach does not have to bite a person to stimulate an allergic reaction. Common symptoms of cockroach allergy include rashes and asthma. Many researchers believe it is the cockroach’s saliva and feces that result in allergic symptoms. Think you don’t have a cockroach problem? Think again. Some studies suggest that in urban areas up to 98 percent of homes will have cockroaches of some sort.

Their favorite places to hide include in kitchens, in closets and in furniture or old luggage. Usually, people already predisposed to asthma are most likely to react to cockroach exposure with allergy symptoms.

  • Dust mites – These are tiny organisms that live in dust. They reside throughout your home, in your bed and pillows, in upholstery and even in your carpet. The best way to remove dust mites to the best of your ability is to vacuum often, clean often and wash your sheets and bedding as often as possible. Allergic symptoms are like those of exposure to pollen and may include wheezing or coughing. Many people with dust mite allergies experience ongoing problems, as it is difficult to eliminate dust mites from one’s living environment.
  • Honeybees – Honeybees, bees and other insects often inject venom that, in most people, will result in only mild irritation. Some people, however, have a heightened allergic response that tends to worsen with time, and may include respiratory difficulty, hives, and even anaphylactic reactions. Most bees that inject a person with an allergic irritant leave a venom filled “sac” in the skin. You can often remove this sack by gently scratching the surface of your skin with a flat credit card or similar substance. Be careful however, because you can accidentally break the stinger or stem holding the sac in place, causing the venom to stay put or worse, leak into the surrounding skin.
  • Mold – Mold includes all parasitic fungi or spores that float through the air or live within warm, moist environments. Mold may also include mildew that grows in the warm, moist corridors of your house, or even right alongside your home. Many households have mold in the basement, but mold may also grow out-of-doors, including in piles of old leaves, in mulch and in related areas. Mold is often problematic during hot and humid summer months. Consider yourself lucky if you live in a climate where there is little moisture in the air; you are less likely to suffer from constant exposure to mold.
  • Pollen – this typically results in an allergic response like hay fever or allergic rhinitis. Inflammation of the nose, throat and eyes are common. We’ll cover pollen in more detail later in this guide.
  • Cat dander or animal dander – Certain animals, including cats, secrete substances or proteins that irritate many humans’ nasal lining. Symptoms of an animal dander allergy include watery, itchy eyes, sneezing, congestion and even increased asthmatic symptoms. Some people develop allergies to dander only after repeated exposure to a pet. Others may experience very severe reactions even to minimal exposure.

Most people experience flares or a worsening of their symptoms in the spring, when flowers and other trees begin blooming, releasing pollen into the air. The good news is even if you are sensitive to any or all these common allergens you can take steps to reduce your exposure and the severity of flare-ups.

How do you do that? 

Like food allergies, the first step in alleviating common allergies is identifying your triggers. A simple blood test is sometimes all that is needed to define the reasons for your symptoms. For many common allergens, most people experience a wide range of symptoms that may include itchy, watery eyes; sneezing; chronic respiratory problems; asthma; problems sleeping; swelling or hives; anaphylactic or emergent reactions requiring immediate medical assistance.

In the next section, we will focus more on diagnosing and treating common allergies. We’ll also talk about ways you can avoid triggers in more detail, so you can free yourself from the confines that allergies often produce.

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Trusted Resources 

The Home Doctor - Practical Medicine for Every Household - is a 304-page doctor written and approved guide on how to manage most health situations when help is not on the way.

 Top Allergy Products A collection of trusted products available at Phillips Pharmacy.



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