7 of the Strangest Allergies

By Adem Lewis / in , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , /

[♪ INTRO ] When you think of allergies, the first thing
that comes to mind is probably seasonal allergies, like a sneezing fit over some pollen, or a
food allergy that’s closed up somebody’s throat. But they’re more than just pollen and peanuts. Allergies can happen in response to a lot
of things, because they’re basically the result of your body overreacting to something. Your immune system thinks it’s dangerous,
even though it really isn’t. And in the end, the inappropriate response
becomes the problem. We’re used to certain allergies because
we see people who are allergic to the same ten foods, or the same plants and animals,
all the time. It’s possible that these allergies are more
common because they look kind of similar to each other, at least at the molecular level
… and they also look kind of similar to certain proteins on parasitic worms. So, some researchers think these overreactions
are really just a side effect of the immune system trying to protect itself against a
certain type of invader. But there are also a handful of weird allergies
that make even less sense, because in a few cases, it’s hard to say what the offending
protein might be. And some of those can be much harder to avoid
than even a peanut butter sandwich … like water, or your own hormones. So here are 7 of the strangest allergies out
there. First up, an allergy that lets you write on
your skin. People with dermographism are allergic to
touch, and if they want, they can sign their name on their arm, or write out the name of
their condition on their back. You know, like people do. What’s actually going on here is an exaggerated
version of a normal response skin has to touch. For most people, if you say, drag a capped
ballpoint pen across your arm, you’ll create a line that gets red and swells a bit. In about 2-5% of people, this is more extreme,
so it looks like a full-blown hive. In that sense, demographism isn’t all that
rare. What’s less common is the more extreme version. In some people the skin itches, and in some
cases it takes hardly any pressure at all, like just that from a T-shirt. For some reason physical touch causes a type
of immune cell in their skin, known as a mast cell, to release histamine. Histamine is a chemical that, among other
things, makes blood vessels open up a little bit . This lets fluid out, and you get that
raised welt, or what doctors call urticaria. Urticaria is a common allergic reaction, but
usually, we have some sense of why it happens, because histamine release from mast cells
depends on antibodies. A bunch of antibodies stick to mast cells,
and if they see something they recognize, like tree pollen, or dust mites, that triggers
the mast cell to unleash histamine. But in the case of dermographism, and several
of the other so-called physical urticarias that we’ll talk about next, scientists aren’t
sure what’s happening because there’s no obvious thing the antibodies would recognize. That’s part of the mystery. Unless there’s a genetic cause, most of
these urticarias develop in young adulthood, but could start in childhood or even late
in life. The good news is that because histamine is
driving a lot of the allergic reaction, allergy meds called antihistamines, which prevent
histamine from binding to their receptors and taking effect, can usually help. Another unusual physical allergy is vibration,
or vibratory urticaria. If someone with this condition does something
repetitive, like running or even just clapping their hands, they can break out in hives within
minutes. This can happen multiple times a day in some
people, and they can have other symptoms, like swelling in their face. Something about vibration is able to set off
mast cells. In this case, we actually know a bit more
than with dermographism, because some cases of the condition are genetic. People with a genetic allergy to vibration
have a mutation in a protein that’s on the outside of mast cells. The protein has two subunits, but the mutation
makes it harder for them to stay together, so with vibration, one of the subunits falls
away. Without it, mast cells get the signal to let
loose their cargo, and bam: hives. Then there are the people with an allergy
to the cold. And no, this is not just a dislike of waiting
for the bus in the winter time. Cold urticaria is another physical urticaria,
and it can be serious. Touching cold objects or coming into contact
with cold air or water causes welts, along with angioedema, where the lower layers of
the skin swell. The reason why this physical allergy tends
to be more dangerous is because it’s pretty easy to suddenly be totally surrounded by
cold water — say, if you’re swimming, or if someone flushes the toilet while you’re
in the shower. With so many mast cells releasing histamine
throughout their body, someone with an allergy to the cold can go into anaphylaxis, which
involves difficulty breathing and low blood pressure, and can be deadly. So, yes, it’s actually a pretty decent excuse
to live in Florida. Or Maui. Just be wary of swimming and cold drinks. Which brings us to perhaps the most unlikely
allergy of all: water. It’s called aquagenic urticaria. The condition is extremely rare — one estimate
is that there are only 32 people on the entire planet with the condition. So scientists don’t have a great understanding
of it. But as you can probably guess, it gets in
the way of a lot of things, not least bathing and drinking. And it makes rain not only annoying, but dangerous. People with the condition get small hives
within a half hour of water exposure, most often on the upper parts of their bodies,
like the neck and arms. Their throat can start to swell when they
drink water, and their own tears or sweat can also produce the reaction. Once water is actually inside their tissues,
though, it seems to be fine. As with the other physical urticarias, antihistamines
can help — at least enough for someone with the allergy to stay hydrated. They don’t always work, though, and some
people go as far as putting creams or things like petroleum jelly on their skin to prevent
contact with water. Next up, an allergy to exercise, or what medical
professionals call exercise-induced anaphylaxis. Now, you might be thinking, excellent, what
a great excuse to skip the gym! But as you can probably tell from the word
“anaphylaxis,” this condition can be pretty serious. People will usually start out by getting hives
and wheezing, maybe with some nausea and diarrhea thrown in. Things will get better if they stop exercising,
but if they keep going, their blood pressure will drop, their throat will swell, and eventually
their heart will stop pumping blood. That’s not very good, for obvious reasons,
and several people have died. Fortunately, exercise-induced anaphylaxis
is rare — it’s more common for people to just develop hives. Scientists aren’t sure why it happens, but
for some reason exercise triggers mast cells to release lots of histamine and other proteins. One idea, which is still very much unproven,
is that endorphins, which are basically the body’s feel-good chemicals, help stimulate
the mast cells to release their inflammatory goodies. We know endorphins have the ability to do
this sometimes, and you release endorphins when you exercise. More strenuous activities, like running or
biking, are more likely to spur an attack, but some people will have an allergic response
to something as simple as a raking leaves or walking. Being allergic to exercise is already pretty
strange, but in some cases, there’s an extra twist, and the person only has the allergic
response if they eat a certain food first. This is called food-dependent exercise-induced
anaphylaxis. Everyone’s food triggers are different,
but common ones are things like shellfish, wheat, and tomatoes. If they exercise within several hours of eating
that food, they’ll have an allergic reaction. Why this happens is also a mystery, but scientists
suspect that part of it has to do with the fact that exercise makes the cells lining
the gut become less attached to one another, letting more of the contents slip through. That makes immune cells more likely to come
into contact with allergens from the food the person just ate. If they also drink alcohol, symptoms tend
to be worse. The exercise could be doing a bunch of other
things too, though, like changing how food is broken down, or altering something else
about the immune system in the gut. We don’t really know. But in this case, the allergy is pretty easy
to avoid. Once you know your trigger foods, either don’t
eat them, or if you do, plan to spend the rest of the afternoon on the couch. For those with just the exercise allergy,
doctors recommend carrying Epipens in case of an attack, and learning the initial symptoms
so they can stop exercising quickly, or training with a partner who knows about the allergy
and is prepared to help if it starts to get out of hand. This next one is probably really not fun to
discover for the first time: an allergy to semen. This, as you might imagine, makes sex a little
difficult. It’s called human seminal plasma hypersensitivity,
and it’s thought to be a fairly straightforward, if unfortunate, allergy to proteins in semen. It seems to be more common in biological females,
and has mostly been studied as a female health problem, but males can react to semen too,
even their own. Scientists aren’t sure yet which proteins
are the problem, although one candidate is prostate-specific antigen, or PSA, the same
protein that doctors will sometimes monitor for prostate cancer. The allergy shows up as a burning, itchy redness
anywhere else the seminal fluid might touch. It can also become a systemic reaction, producing
hives on different parts of the body, and cause wheezing and difficulty breathing. Some people have even gone into anaphylactic
shock. Typically, using condoms during sex helps,
as long as the person with the allergy isn’t the one producing the semen. Some people also keep epipens on standby. But allergists have also come up with ways
to desensitize people to the proteins they overreact to. It’s similar to an allergy shot you might
get for a more typical allergen, like pollen. Except here, you get increasing doses of your
partner’s semen applied to your vagina. Or, if you don’t have a vagina, allergists
will isolate the proteins you react to, and then inject them under your skin. Either way, to keep that built-up tolerance,
doctors advise patients to have sex every 2 days or so. Even though the allergy is rarer in males,
some scientists think it could be behind something called postorgasmic illness syndrome, which
is when males develop flu-like symptoms shortly after they ejaculate, and can feel sick for
up to a week. If you think a semen allergy is bad, consider
something called autoimmune progesterone dermatitis. This is when someone reacts to their own menstrual
hormones — specifically progesterone. Progesterone levels start to go up about halfway
through the menstrual cycle, and that’s when the problems begin. The surge of progesterone can cause rashes,
hives, or mouth sores, which last until the person’s period begins and progesterone
levels drop. Because of the recurring nature of the rashes,
this is sometimes called cyclic urticaria. With fewer than 100 cases on the books, scientists
know very little about it. Since it’s a reaction to a person’s own
hormones, it’s technically considered an autoimmune disease, but it shares many features
of an allergic response, including the possibility of anaphylaxis. Doctors usually treat patients with hormone
therapy to prevent the usual production of progesterone, and a variety of medications
can help. If it’s bad enough, though, sometimes people
choose to remove their ovaries. And that’s really what makes these kinds of
allergies so strange — and difficult. Normally, if you’re allergic to mold spores,
pets, or certain foods, you can mostly get around them by avoiding those things. But try avoiding water, the cold, or your
own monthly hormonal fluctuations. You either have to completely rearrange your
life to avoid those things, if it’s even possible at all. You might need surgery to remove otherwise
perfectly good organs. Or, with the semen allergy, it can dictate
your sex life. Of course, even the more common types of allergies
aren’t exactly fun. But it could be a lot worse than getting hives
after an encounter with your neighbor’s cat. Thanks for watching this episode of SciShow! SciShow is produced by Complexly, a group
of people with a shared thirst for knowledge. You might already be familiar with some of
our other channels, like Crash Course. If you liked this video, you might want to
check out our show Healthcare Triage, where Dr. Aaron Carroll gives you the rundown on
all things medical science — from the opioid crisis to the truth about cancer risk. Just head over to youtube.com/healthcaretriage
to learn more. [♪ OUTRO ]

100 thoughts on “7 of the Strangest Allergies

  1. I also have vibration allergy, always after i play football or something sporty, i have hives all over my arms, abdomen and thighs.also after a shower i get some hives. Also after changing temperatures(în winter my thighs get very itchy and full of hives when i come back inside). An some mild form of dermographia, if my hand is grabbed more tightly or something it swells and gets itchy, also the soft touch of putting on a t shirt also triggered this alergic reacțion. Also also sometimes i wake up and my nose îs itchy, dry, i sneeze a lot and my eyes water

  2. I have the 2nd one. Tried to tell doctors several times that even though it can get worse in cold weather, it will not happen unless there is vibration such as from walking/running on hard surface. Still have seen at least two write down only "cold urticaria" 🙄😕

  3. you are missing one. Sunlight. even in winter, even 5 mins of sun exposure causing a rash/hives/blisters, the sensation of sharp hot needles whereever the sunlight touches, even in the shade of it isnt "complete" enough and longer exposure, will cause flu like symptoms , full body swelling, aching joints, headaches, diarrhea ect, and sunburns, even mild ones, become something that send you to the ER. also liver and kidney damage. some medications can even make it worse.

  4. I have two of these and they were both much worse in my teens and 20s. Any light scrape on my skin–even a bra strap that rubbed–would raise red itchy welts. Same thing if I spilled ice water on myself or sat on a freezing cold bench. Itchy welts that lasted a couple of hours. I had to take so many antihistamines, I was constantly drowsy. Now it's mostly just an annoyance akin to mosquito bites, although occasionally the dermography is still really bad.

  5. I am "allergic" to certain viruses.

    Also, I know of someone who was allergic to Black Mamba venom. Not antivenom. The actual venom

  6. Cop: Hey, you can't be naked on the street!
    Shows doctor's note for dermographism.
    Cop: Oh, sorry, carry on.

    #6 – Next time a Christian tells you homosexuality is a choice.

  7. I have both cold and vibration allergies. This is the first mainstream video I've ever seen about them and I feel so validated.

  8. I'm somewhat allergic to capcasin but my throat doesnt close shut from it, breathing is still hard. It found in most spicy food and pepper spray. And someone actually used spray pepper at some dude when I was around. The reaction was not pleasent and end up at the ER with heavy steriods to control the allergic reaction and another disease I have. The person who spray it had to pay my medical bills at least.

  9. 5:15 I thought everyone had that feeling. I had to go to the hospital last year and this year around the time of mid school and this year it had to deal with my blood. My blood pressure was super low. The normal score would be around 12 and mine was at 6. I had anemia and they couldn’t figure out why. Also I have gained a reaction to tomatoes around the same time.

  10. These are all common reactions in MCAS patients. They aren't necessarily Ige responses but cause Mast cell mediator dumping when exposed to these things. The water and exercise reaction is especially common with people who have co-morbid MCAS and POTS.

  11. I have a definitely identical twin, but I don’t have any allergies, and she is allergic to goats milk and sheeps milk but not cow.

  12. I have known two people with allergies from this list. One was a girl back in highschool allergic to the cold. She had to be really careful in the winter here in Ohio and the other found out she was allergic to her husband's semen after multiple miscarriages.

  13. When im exercising my arms for example i will get an extreme itch all over them. I hate to bring this up but as a clean recovering heroin addict back in my addiction when i would use needles after the injection i would get extreme itching all the way up my arms and through the rest of my body. Basically everywhere the heroin went i would immediately have an immune response that would trigger severe itching(face, neck, chest, legs, especially where arterys were). It would happen in real time. So i could feel where in my bloodstream the drugs had made it. Anyways i wont go on cause its not exactly something im proud of that im a recovering addict but it thought it was related to the video. Im 29 I started using heroin at 13 and ive been clean from heroin and other drugs since 22. I am still on methadone so not completely clean but im tapering off the methadone and im the poster child of a successful patient at my methadone clinic. Cant wait to be clean for real!!!!

  14. I am allergic to Chillis and other peppers and everyone always looks at me funny when I tell them like I am just being pathetic. I have an epipen because I have had anaphylaxis in the past and find it very hard to breathe even with the tiniest amount. Black pepper also makes my tongue swell up. Even doctors are shocked when I tell them.

  15. Oml,Im Allergic to icecream milk cheese all diary Things,That means if my class eats ice cream Guess what Xd my teacher gives me jello Ty Teach everyone is Jelly LoL
    How do you drink milk
    Water Its better
    Do you have smoothie if so,HOW there's milk
    Oh I don't like them sorry!!
    Allergic reaction?
    Does milk cause Anything
    Uhh No,My teachers give me Better this like,Snow Cones (melted) water,Etc without milk items
    Thats all Its Really Dumb But I'm Okay 🙂

  16. I have a very large bunch of allergies fml. First is a bunch of mixed {non-anaphylaxis contact with skin} and {oral/food anaphylaxis } allergies, {one "unknown" cause non-food anaphylaxis trigger}, {Dermatographia}… ANNDD ugh.. 😒 obviously other then the anaphylactic allergies being bad for their own reasons, I also have my nightmare ones those are the mentioned in video Aquagenic Urticaria and Cholinergic Urticaria (sweat and heat hives). Which cause my already many psychiatric diagnosis to weigh down on me a million times heavier, cause me to have terribly all over body itchy skin everyday 24/7 along with random painful hives that I also get everyday and add to my already poorly negitive self esteem issues (and antihistamines are not helping much anymore). They cause me to have a constant feeling of wanting to scratch, rip, or cheese grate my skin off or jump off a bridge literally.

  17. anyone with a rutin allergy? Rutin is a bioflavonoid found in most fruits and vegetables, especially citrus, onions and garlic. It is also found in buckwheat and tea. Very high concentrations of rutin in tea and citrus. It makes eating nutritiously next to impossible. I definitely can't eat a vegan diet. I have been told that a rutin allergy is very rare, therefore it's difficult to find information on it (there is no money in it). Water and dry fasting seems to be my only relief.

  18. Imunne system: AAAA THREAT! ALERT!
    Water: Im good for you! An ally!
    Immune system: Thats just what you want us to think.

  19. When I was little I had a friend who was allergic to snow. We lived in Massachusetts. It wasn’t the snow per se that she was allergic too but instead like a mold that grew on top of it. So she could play in the stop as it was falling but a short time after the snow stopped falling she had to go inside and avoid it until it melted. Her mom was a super clean freak and like other super clean freak mothers, they all ended up with all their children having horrible allergies. Be happy it you had a normal mom and not one scared of dust and dirt.

  20. I'm allergic to most common painkillers. Livin' da life on high difficulty , but damn these people got the "extreme" setting

  21. I have a peanut allergy, but I have been tempted for years to eat just a little bit of peanut butter to see what happens. I’m in mid 20s and haven’t had anything peanut related since childhood. But should I tho?🤔

  22. I wish i had an allergy…instead im stuck with rhinits, non allergic rhinits…. it can be triggerd by EVERYTHING, and has no way To prevent it. I start to feel sick, puke mucus and sneeze for hrs….

  23. Is any1 else allergic 2 drinking from cans of soda?! I get coldsores within a half hour if I don't use a straw!!! Every time!!!? I'm also allergic 2 nickel …

  24. I have something that is kinda similar to a cold allergy but it's moreso my lips drying out quicker in the cold so I just have to drink water more and use lip balm but my mouth can get pretty bad blisters. I can also prevent it by wearing a scarf around my mouth.

  25. One of my friends is allergic to meat, if he eats something that's come in contact with meat juice his esophagus with swell shut. Lucky for him beer helps. The carbonation washes down the proteins a bit. He'll still spend most of the rest of the day throwing up, but it's not as deadly of an allergy.

  26. Okay. A lot of this makes sense. But I beleive we bring some of this upon ourselves with lifestyle. Be active from youth to adulthood inside and outside. And I beleive you have a better chance vs these type allergies. Just my thoughts!

  27. My friend is sick whenever she eats microwaved food, whether she knows or does not know she eats it, within hours she is sick for at least a week.

  28. I have an extreme allergy to rice and no one believes me so when I ask for no rice in my food, and mention that I’m allergic, at restaurants, a lot of people think I’m just on a weird diet so they put the rice anyway. My joints swell up and my skin gets tight. I become like stone and can’t breathe.

    I also have an allergy to cold! My sister and I both have it. That’s why we live in AZ

  29. I'm allergic to cinnamon, you know he US uses cinnamon in so many dishes? And I'm allergic to pollen/mold/dust/dogs and sensitive to anything related to penicillin.

  30. I'm allergic to shellfish after I had to have 12 blood transfusions during open heart surgery but the really weird part of it is I can still eat shrimp BUT ONLY if it's cooked in beer how is this possible?

  31. My brother in law did a treatment to cure the cold allergy. It worked. He went to a doctor that specializes in allergy’s when he was young and never had it again. The treatment lasted about 2 years.

  32. Oh my goodness I have food-dependent exercise-induced anaphylaxis, it happens when I eat some kinds of pasta and run.

  33. I'm allergic to peanuts, potatoes, soy, eggs, corn, wheat, cats, dogs, birds, grasses, trees, molds, stinging insects (severe), dustmites, pollen, & wheat germ.. oddly enough I'm not allergic or don't have a reaction to poison ivy! But I do have the reaction to my own sweat.

  34. I have dermatographia from mast cell activation disease. It’s the skin writing thing. I take a lot of meds to help control the symptoms, but you can still see it. Without my meds, even just toweling off after a shower is unbearable. I also have allergic reactions to heat, random scents, and new things that happen frequently.

  35. As a nonbinary person who menstruates, I REALLY appreciate the gender neutral way you covered the last allergy. Thank you!

  36. I used to get hives really bad to the point that if I went into my pool by the time I got out my parents would say it looked like someone had used a whip on my back. Or I would get itchy hives on my back just from walking around without a shirt on. Somewhere down the line I lost the extreme reactions (thankfully) but I can still draw all over my arms by scratching myself

  37. I used to know a girl who was allergic to cold, she lived in Chicago, which really sucked because whenever she walked out into the cold she would break out in hives, not extremely severe though.

  38. everyone comments about how bad it is to be allergic to water, but I think the worst is the touching one. Like, the really bad case that you can't even wear a T-shirt. You can't really do anything with that. You can't hold anything, wear anything, maybe not even stand or sit or lay down. Eating also requires the food to touch your lips or tounge, so… no, that won't do either.

  39. #5– I KNEW there was a very good reason why someone should bring my lunch and wine to me while I recline on my couch.

  40. I have mastocytosis (urticaria pigmentosa) some of my triggers are: latex, corn stalks/leaves, wood, grasses, sweat, my own hair, certain shampoos/conditioners/body washes/facial and skin care products, dog hair (both wet and dry, wet hair has the worst reaction), dog saliva, cigarettes, certain clothing fabrics, certain laundry detergents and fabric softeners, insects… All of these cause hives. The only anaphylactic experience I had was to a drug called Emend, which was my pre-nausea drug before starting chemotherapy during cancer.

  41. i have a "sun allergy" and it honestly makes my life hell. not only cus being in the sun for longer than a few minutes will cause me severe pain and a long lasting rash. sometimes sores. but because no one ever believes me when i say i have PMLE.

  42. Both my mom and I had pressure urticaria that finally just stopped in our early 30's. I've been hive-free for a little over a year. It sucked.

  43. I have dermographism. It's honestly weird. I love how people get weirded out when I scratch my skin for example.
    + my skin itches ;-;

  44. I commiserate with the water one a lot, my allergy is a little different and not as difficult but still incredibly inconvenient. I am allergic to chlorine, and yes you're thinking yeah of course drinking bleach or bleach fumes will kill you. But if someone cracks open a bottle of bleach anywhere in my house my throat will close up and my lungs can shut down. I have gone to the hospital for this very reason. But what does that have to do with water? Chlorine is a common disinfectant for public water, aka tap water. In my state it is required by law that all public water is treated with it. So I can't drink tap water, I can't swim in a pool, not even saltwater if it's public access it has chlorine, showering is a pain. I must only shower in water cool enough that it doesn't steam to prevent breathing chlorine in, I can't get it in my eyes, ears, nose, or mouth. Bottled water is all I can use at the moment to drink, but I also had to test every brand available to find one I could drink, luckily it's not an expensive brand. For a long time filtration companies like brita didn't filter chlorine because it wasn't really considered as harmful. So the only practical filtration option was Berkey for either extremely expensive units or only singular water bottles which gave me the freedom to drink for any source but not to cook. Luckily I see now many filtration brands are starting to filter chlorine too so more than likely this is just gonna get easier for me over time. One of the things I do wanna get is a shower filter but I haven't really been able to buy it let alone the cost of filters. So I commiserate but I'm still not as bad.

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