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The Four Most Dangerous Allergies and How to Prevent Them


Over 54 percent of Americans have allergies, and for most of them these result in inconvenient and uncomfortable symptoms like sneezing, congestion, watery/itchy eyes, and a runny nose. But for some allergy sufferers -- estimates say as many as 40 million -- exposure to an allergen can cause a potentially life-threatening reaction called anaphylaxis.

peanut butter

Food allergies are one of the most common causes of life-threatening anaphylaxis.

As much as 15 percent of the U.S. population may be at risk of severe allergies, or anaphylaxis, according to a study in the Archives of Internal Medicine.

Allergies occur when your immune system overreacts to a substance that normally shouldn't cause a reaction. The event sets off a chemical chain reaction, namely the release of histamine, that leads to allergy symptoms (typically wherever the histamine is released). In people with severe allergies, however, the reaction impacts your entire body, and the histamine can cause your blood vessels to dilate and your blood pressure to decrease. Your throat may also become swollen, blocking your ability to breathe.

Along with trouble breathing, wheezing, hives, itching and a weak or rapid pulse, your can also feel faint, dizzy, or nauseous during an anaphylactic reaction. Further, because the event can stop your breathing or your heartbeat, it can be fatal within minutes.

Although anaphylaxis can be triggered by a number of allergens, a handful appear to be much more dangerous.

Which Allergies are the Most Dangerous?

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  • How to avoid the foods and ingredients that trigger reactions
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  • How to meet recommended nutrient intakes while avoiding trigger foods such as dairy products, eggs, gluten-containing grains such as wheat, or other food culprits
  • How to determine which food(s) may be triggers for your symptoms ... and much more!
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There are four major allergy groups that are most likely to trigger a life-threatening reaction. They are:

  1. Food

  2. Insect stings

  3. Drugs

  4. Latex

In rare cases exercise can also trigger anaphylaxis.

Preventing these allergies, of course, means avoiding the triggers, something that is not always easy.

Fighting food allergies, for instance, can be tricky as hidden ingredients, particularly wheat and peanuts, can be anywhere. Be sure to read food labels carefully. To make things a bit easier, the Food and Drug Administration requires that the top eight food allergens -- peanuts, eggs, milk, shellfish, wheat, tree nuts, soy and fish -- must be clearly stated on food labels.

Meanwhile, if you eat out anywhere (from your neighbor's house to your school cafeteria) let the server or cook know that you absolutely cannot have certain ingredients.

Also, be sure to check out The Food Allergy Survival Guide Book, our top-recommended source for anyone with food allergies. You'll learn what your food triggers might be, how to avoid them, easy-to-use alternatives, and even great-tasting allergen-free recipes.

To best avoid stinging insects, be extremely cautious if they're nearby, but do stay calm, move slowly away and resist slapping at it. You can somewhat discourage bees, wasps and hornets from coming near you by wearing long-sleeved shirts and pants, avoiding wearing bright colors and not wearing perfume and cologne.

Also, if you're picnicking outdoors, don't bring food out until you're ready to eat, and cover up high-sugar foods and drinks (like sodas) that will attract bees. Meanwhile, a quick spray of all-natural Flea 'n Tick B Gone around your yard or picnic area is a simple way to keep bees, hornets, wasps and other insects safely away.

In some cases a series of allergy shots (immunotherapy) may be able to reduce your body's allergic response to insect stings and thereby prevent a severe reaction in the future (this type of therapy is only effective for insect sting allergies).

latex allergy

For people with an allergy to latex everyday items from bandages to rubber bands have the potential to be deadly.

If you have allergies to certain medications, make sure your doctor and pharmacist are aware of them (remind them before receiving any medical treatment), and also wear a medical alert necklace or bracelet that states your specific allergies.

Also make sure your doctor or health care providers are informed if you have a latex allergy, as the material is common in rubber gloves, blood pressure cuffs, urinary catheters, tourniquets, resuscitation equipment and other medical equipment. The best way to prevent an allergic reaction to latex is to be aware of which products may contain it, then avoid them as best you can. Latex is commonly found in:

  • Balloons

  • Dishwashing gloves

  • Waistbands on clothing

  • Rubber toys

  • Pacifiers and baby-bottle nipples

  • Rubber bands

  • Adhesive tape and bandages

  • Diapers and sanitary pads

  • Condoms

If You Have Severe Allergies, Always Keep THIS With You

If you have a severe allergy of any kind make sure you always carry self-injectable epinephrine (often called an EpiPen) with you in case of emergency.

"The trouble with these kinds of allergies is that once the anaphylactic response begins, severe illness or death can be imminent," said Rachel Miller, MD, a co-author of the Archives of Internal Medicine study. "These patients must have auto-injectable epinephrine, like EpiPen, with them at all times."

Epinephrine, though not always a "cure-all," reduces the body's allergic response and increases the time someone in anaphylactic shock has to get to an emergency room for further treatment.

If you carry an EpiPen with you, make sure it has not gone past its expiration date (which may make the medication ineffective), and be sure you and your close family (and friends) know how to administer it correctly in case of an emergency.

Recommended Reading

Food Allergies Last Longer Than They Used To: Food Allergy Facts You Need to Know

50% of U.S. Population Has Allergies, Most Don't Realize It & Suffer Unnecessarily ... Do You?

Sources Anaphylaxis Latex Allergy

Archives of Internal Medicine 2001;161:15-21

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