There are always allergies, at all ages and everywhere. The number of possible triggers of an allergic reaction is enormous, as is the size of the population suffering from these diseases. According to the World Allergy Organization (IMPRESSIVE, for its English acronym) between 30% and 40% of the world’s population suffer from some type of allergy. And the percentage increases as age decreases; for example, it is estimated to be between 40% and 50% in children.
It’s called an allergic reaction to the disease that occurs when the body recognizes a harmless substance as an attacker and counteracts it. Pollen, some medicines, food, sunlight or animal dander are the most common, but the number of substances that can cause such a reaction is very large. And while it’s true that the vast majority of allergic reactions can happen at any time, it’s also true that summer is peak season for some of them: sun allergies, bug bites, and food allergies.
The colloquial term “sun allergy” refers to “any exaggerated reaction of the skin to normal exposure to the sun,” explains Dolores del Pozo, an allergy specialist at the Hospital of San Pedro de Logroño. These reactions involve very different processes that we call photosensitivity disorders. “A small group of them, triggered by a hypersensitivity mechanism, are true sun allergies,” he adds.
When we burn At the beach we do not suffer from sun allergy. For it to be an allergy there has to be a reaction by the body, what allergists call hypersensitivity, and that is this exaggerated reaction by the body to harmless substances.
As Dolores del Pozo, author of the chapter on sun allergy in The Book of Allergic Diseasespublished jointly by the Spanish Society of Allergology and the BBVA Foundation: “Among the so-called sun allergies, there are some that are very rare and others that are fairly common and can affect up to 20% of the population, such as: B. the polymorphic solar flare, which is one of the most common reasons for consulting Sun exposure. It is a skin rash that is more common in women. It usually occurs when you start sunbathing in spring or summer, and while it can have different manifestations, it usually affects the neck area, extremities, or even the face. It usually causes itching and is usually benign. It’s controlled with antihistamines and avoidance of exposure and usually ends when a tan is achieved, it’s what we call hardening.
But besides these types of allergies, sunlight can also cause other reactions, such as those where it acts as a trigger. Some drugs and substances contained in cosmetic products, for example, can cause an allergic reaction that occurs only when exposed to the sun. “One of the most common photoallergens is topical anti-inflammatory creams, but sunlight is required to trigger the photoallergic response to the active ingredient in the cream,” explains Del Pozo.
The recommendation, according to Dolores del Pozo, if you experience a reaction to normal sun exposure, is to “consult your GP to assess whether you should redirect us to an allergist.”
Allergy to insect bites
Wasps and bees sting more often in summer, so of course there are more allergic reactions to their stings at this time. Alfonso Miranda, an allergy expert and former coordinator of the Hymenoptera Venom Allergy Committee of the Spanish Society of Allergology and Clinical Immunology, explains: “The females of these insects inoculate venom with their sting. This poison is toxic to everyone, but there are also some people who are allergic so they suffer a stronger reaction.
This reaction, like all allergies, varies greatly from person to person. “It can range from a local reaction, causing swelling of the area where the bite was taken: an arm, hand or leg, to a systemic reaction, meaning he starts having generalized hives that his face swells or his mouth, or worse and that it reaches anaphylactic shock,” says Miranda. Anaphylactic shock is The Book of Allergic Diseases, a generalized allergic reaction with cardiovascular involvement and a drop in blood pressure, which can be very serious and in some cases fatal.
According to Alfonso Miranda, deaths from this cause occur every year: “There is no data in Spain, but we assume that statistically we can compare with France and there are about twenty fatal reactions annually.” But an allergy to bee and wasp stings is curable. “There is a vaccine made with the venom of the wasp or bee. In the patients we use it on, after four or five years of treatment, before removing the vaccine, we do the cotton test, we prick it with a live insect and nobody has ever had a reaction, ”adds the expert.
What to do if you get stung by a wasp or bee when you don’t know if you’re allergic or not, Alfonso Miranda gives some advice: “You have to know that the sting always hurts. It’s good to put ice on it or, if you’re in a river, apply some cold mud to reduce inflammation. But in principle, people do not have a serious reaction to the first insect bite, because they have to become sensitized and allergic. A second or third stitch can cause more problems.
Summer does not increase the risk of foods that cause allergies, but what happens in the summer season, according to Ana Fiandor, head of the Allergy Service at the University Hospital La Paz in Madrid, is that “we leave the house more, we eat more outside and this is a more dangerous situation for people with food allergies because eating outside of a protected environment is more risky.”
Food allergy is a pathology that can begin at any age, but it is especially common in young patients. “Children show these allergies according to the nutritional induction calendar,” explains Fianor. And he adds: “Milk is presented first, then eggs and the third group is mostly fish. Nuts are rather later”. All food allergies can be mild or very severe, “it doesn’t depend on the food, it depends on the person who has the allergy. The biggest risk is accidental consumption. But any food can give serious pictures. The most common symptom is itching and the appearance of hives on the skin. And things get serious when there are respiratory problems or the circulatory system is affected,” Fiandor clarifies.
Allergic reactions to food are very quick. If a person eats, feels itchy mouth and feels nauseous, they must stop eating immediately, call 112 and explain what is happening to them, the expert says. Anyone who already knows that they are allergic to a food is usually very careful and comes prepared. But in all cases, Ana Fiandor recommends being aware of a lesser-known fact: “Certain proteins can do more harm in an allergic reaction when some associated factors occur: alcohol consumption, strenuous exercise, lack of sleep, menstruation, or use.” of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs. All of these factors increase the severity of allergic reactions. For example, a person who is allergic to walnuts and accidentally eats them in bread and the only thing it causes is hives may find that if they ingest them with a beer, it causes an anaphylactic four.