There are five characteristic types of clues that suggest someone is having a reaction to an allergen. Begin keeping records of the sudden changes listed below. You can easily figure out answers everyone else as missed by noticing what was eaten, touched or smelled before the changes. Write down everything that is contacted, and if a reaction occurs at any time, note it.
The “Big Five” will help you. Look for Changes in:
The following are the common changes to watch for:
Allergic persons and their relatives tend to have an allergic appearance. Everyone recognizes the swollen, red, watery eyes and the drippy or stuffy nose and bouts of sneezing so typical of hay fever or seasonal allergy. Many know that people with asthma have problems after exercise, laughter or after breathing cold air or drinking cold liquids.
The following, however, explains some of the less well-recognized physical clues which often indicate a person might have an unsuspected allergy. These symptoms often appear suddenly, shortly after exposure to dust, mold, pollen, chemical or an offending food. The symptoms can be chronic when a person is routinely exposed. Many of these changes will disappear when the cause of the allergies is avoided or treated.
The skin and body in general
•Some allergic persons complain of “tender skin spots.”
•Allergic children are often extremely ticklish.
•Adults and children may complain of excessive perspiration.
•Persistent body, hair or foot odor which continues in spite of washing. Chronic yeast infections and wheat, in particular, have been known to cause these complaints, as well as tiny persistent rashes.
•Eczema is, of course, a common sign of allergy and should be noted as well.
•Most common are abnormally red cheeks, almost as if they were wearing blush.
•Some allergic children have abnormal pallor. They appear to be anemic when they are not.
•Adults who have very severe food and chemical sensitivities can have a grayish-yellow facial color or pale cheek areas.
•One or both earlobes can suddenly become bright red after eating a problem food or exposure to an offending odor or typical allergen such as dust or pollen. This symptom is particularly characteristic of children who have “Dr. Jekyll-Mr. Hyde” behavioral changes after foods such as red food dye, sugar, milk, chocolate, corn, orange or apple juice, wheat or egg).
•People who have hay fever often scratch their itchy ear canals, especially during the pollen season.
•Typical pollen hay fever can cause the white portion of the eyes to become red and watery. If severe, the white part of the eyes can swell and become covered with a gelatinous type of mucus. If the eyes mucus is yellow or green, there could be a secondary infection due to rubbing the itchy eyes.
•Many allergic persons have obvious black, blue or red circles under their eyes.
•Wrinkles below the eyes which tend to follow the curve of the lower eyelid are typical.
• A great number also have bags or puffiness below their eyes.
• One characteristic that is missed by many is the spacey or even demonic look children or adults can get just before they have a hyperactive or aggressive episode.
•Notice if the nose is frequently rubbed upward, toward the ceiling. This typical clue can cause a horizontal crease called an “allergic nose wrinkle” across the bridge of the nose. It is characteristic of hay fever or nose allergies.
•The tip of the nose, not uncommonly, also can become very red in some allergic individuals because of certain exposures such as alcohol.
Lips and Mouth
•Patients with hay fever often have an itchy palate and some try to scratch the roof of the mouth with their tongue or fingers.
• Some people with food allergies have swollen, cracked lips from mouth breathing or excessive lip licking. This can also cause a rash around the lips.
•The outer edge of the lips of food-allergic adults can appear slightly raised and yellow.
•Food sensitive infants and children, especially, can suddenly drool excessively. At times, the saliva is so copious those affected tend to spit when they speak.
•Women tend to develop a rash between their lower lip and chin, which can be related to the excessive ingestion of chocolate. In younger children, a rash around the mouth sometimes reflects a contact, for example, with milk, toothpaste or bubble gum.
•Normally, the tongue is evenly coated. If the tongue appears white, rather than pink, consider a possible yeast infection.
•If there are “bald” island-like patches on the tongue, these can indicate that a food sensitivity. These tongue patches tend to appear within a few hours after a problem food is ingested and may remain there for several days. This problem is often noticed in people with severe food sensitivities.
•Many people, especially adult women, tend to develop tight joints several hours after drinking coffee, tea or milk or after eating grains or red meats. Other common problem foods are potatoes, tomatoes, eggplant, and peppers.
•Other diverse factors can be an exposure to natural gas fumes from the furnace, kitchen stove, hot water heater or clothes dryer.
•Many note joint problems after exposure to tobacco or molds on a damp day or living in a house that had an extensive water leak at some time.
•Even handling chemically treated copy paper or meat wrapping paper can cause joint pain/tightness in certain sensitive individuals.
•Cold hands and feet are extremely common in children and women who have multiple food and chemical sensitivities.
•If an individual’s fingers become stiff in the middle of the night, this could be an indication of food sensitivity.
Many children and adults tend to wiggle their legs constantly whenever they are reacting to some allergenic substance. In children, this is very often due to milk or dairy products or it could be automobile fumes if it happens during or right after car rides. Leg, calf or other muscles may burn, become weak, and at times ache for hours or days after some people are exposed to molds or chemicals (for example, tobacco, perfume, synthetic carpet, synthetic shoes, auto exhaust or gasoline fumes).
Some infants or young children or adults touch their genitals excessively. The cause of this is not always known. Sometimes it is due to pinworms or tight or synthetic clothing. At times, however, it appears to be due to a marked overgrowth of yeast associated with a previous repetitive need for antibiotics. Women who use birth control pills may also note genital irritation. The problem often responds rapidly to a yeast-free diet. Appropriate medication includes something to kill the yeast such as Mycostatin or Diflucan. Your doctor can advise you. If you have this problem, check to be certain your liver function is normal.
***If you or your child has been frequently given antibiotics, there is often a need to “reseed” the intestines with normal bacteria because the antibiotics kill it. For this, you can take probiotics, which are available at health food stores, most drug stores and some chain stores. Be careful not to take more than what is recommended because this can cause gas and bloating. Yogurt can also be of help in replenishing the lost bacteria.
•Children with food allergies frequently have a long history of rash or tiny pimples located over the area where the cheeks of the buttocks touch.
•“Scalded” red buttocks can suddenly appear in infants who have food sensitivities when they expel the problem food in a bowel movement.
•Pinworms are very common in families and this problem causes scratching near the anus, especially at night. It is easy and inexpensive to treat.
2. HOW THEY SPEAK, FEEL, ACT OR BEHAVE
Sudden or extreme changes in the way a person speaks, feels emotionally or the way they act or behave can certainly be clues of allergy and sensitivity. Changes in a person’s brain, as well as their throat can be conveyed through speech.
•Hyperactive children are often called “motor mouth” because they ramble on and on, but say little.
•Young children, aged two to five years, often make a whining sound or repeat the same sentence over and over when they react to a food or an offending exposure.
•Food-allergic children and adults may tend to speak at a much faster rate than normal.
•The voice of women tends to become higher pitched during an allergic reaction, and their shoulders tend to be raised.
•Stuttering, unclear speech, or a deep, hoarse voice can also suddenly develop in some allergic individuals. If the larynx or voice box is swelling, it could be serious. Chemical contacts, in particular, can sometimes cause a total, sudden loss of voice or inability to speak. If you notice sudden breathing problems and a hoarse voice, check with your doctor immediately.
Depression, aggression or other mood problems
•Changes in mood are very typical of people who are reacting to a certain food or substance. Sudden depression, unwarranted crying, or becoming angry too easily or for no apparent reason are not uncommon.
•Some children, as well as adults can become very withdrawn, depressed, even suicidal. Drugs, such as Ritalin, can cause this.
•Other individuals simply feel very angry and can not always give a clear reason why.
Hyperactivity and other behavioral problems
•Many children become hyperactive after some allergenic exposures. They can become so overactive that they cannot be held or touched.
•Some lash out with violence and break windows, bite themselves, others, the furniture and hit their siblings and mothers.
•Both children and adults can become inexplicably untouchable, want no contact with anyone.
Changes in breathing also can be signs of allergy. This is more common in asthmatics, but others can also have breathing changes, due to infection or heart disease, for example. Watch for heavy, labored breathing or an increase in the number of breaths taken per minute. Count the number of breaths you or your child take in a 30 second period and multiply the number by two. Do this when someone looks normal so you can compare when there is a change. Eating, smelling or touching something can cause this complaint. DR RAPP, HOW MANY DO YOU THINK? I WOULD SAY 10-15 BREATH INCREASE IS SIGNIFICANT, I do not know- let me check- most breathe about 16 per minutes. BUT I DON’T KNOW IF THAT IS ENOUGH OF A CHANGE TO SAY IT’S A REACTION. Double their normal maybe?
Learn how to take your child’s pulse and your own. A person’s pulse can be a big clue to an allergic reaction. Most people have a pulse in the 65 to 85 range. Check yours a few times and see what it runs at rest, then check it when you think you are reacting. There might be a marked increase or the rhythm might become much stronger, erratic and unsteady.
5. WRITING OR DRAWING
If someone who normally writes or draws well suddenly can’t, be suspicious. The writing can become too big, too small, sloppy, upside down or backward. Young children might suddenly be unable to color inside the lines. This is typical of a reaction to a food, chemical or some other substance. For example, if your child writes well in one class at school, but very poorly in another, find out what is different in that room.
*A writing exercise: Do this yourself and also have your child do it.
When you are feeling fine, write your name five times on a sheet of paper and draw something. It can be a rainbow and some trees, anything you like. Label the day and time of each paper. Repeat this:
•Before you go to bed
•First thing when you wake up in the morning
•Before and 30-60 minutes after you go into each room at home, school and work.
•Before and 30-60 minutes after eating each meal.
•Before and within 5 minutes of smelling some odor or aroma.
Do this for one week and be sure to label each page with the day, where you were and what you just ate.
Then, compare the writings and the drawings. Are there any differences? Is there one that sticks out as very different? Are both the writing and the drawing affected? What was different when this one was done? Where were you, what had you eaten or smelled?
Watch for changes in the “Big Five” at all times of the day. Look for them when your child wakes up, after each meal, in the car, after school, at bed time, etc. and ask yourself: what was just eaten, touched or smelled before the dramatic change occurred? This could be the only answer you’ll ever need.