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Allergy Symptoms That Can Be Mistaken For Something Else

 Allergies can be really tricky, and not only because literally anything can cause them, but also because allergies can manifest themselves in a variety of ways. Most people experience sneezing, nasal congestion and itchy eyes as a reaction to pollen and some animals.

Food allergies and contact allergies, such as seafood and exposure to harsh detergents, in turn, usually cause hives. However, there are way so many exceptions to these 2 basic rules that they deserve a separate mention, as patients may easily confuse it with something else or dismiss it altogether. So here is a list of 8 weird and easy-to-miss symptoms of allergies.

cute kittens

1. Skin Tumors.

One of the most unusual allergy symptoms are tumors that form under the skin as a reaction to a tattoo. In 2010, the Journal of Cutaneous Pathology reported that 8 people got tattoo-related skin tumors and concluded that red tattoo ink was to blame for most of the skin tumors. 

Allergologists believe that the skin perceives the red ink as a foreign substance, which triggers an immune response in the body.

a man's tattoed hands with rings and bracelets

2. Baboon Syndrome.

Unfortunately for all the sufferers, baboon syndrome is exactly what it sounds like, a painful bright red swelling on the buttocks and sometimes in the groin. The condition usually develops after exposure to penicillin or other drugs, but cases of patients developing baboon syndrome as a result of contact with plants and herbs were also documented.

Skin contact with mercury, gold, nickel, and other metals can also trigger this kind of reaction, as reported by a 2011 review in the American Journal of Clinical Dermatology.
a male baboon

3. A Cough and Shortness of Breath.

Sneezing is a well-known symptom of allergies, but a dry swollen throat, coughing and shortness of breath could also potentially indicate an allergic reaction. These symptoms are very easy to dismiss as a sign of the common cold, but they could be triggered by a swelling of the throat and lungs, which are extremely dangerous and can even lead to sudden death.

Symptoms aren’t always so extreme, however. For example, a Japanese onion farmer turned to the doctor with a cough and shortness of breath, as a 2018 case report published in the journal Respiratory Medicine Case Reports suggests.

a basket of onions
The man was allergic to a type of mold called Aspergillus niger that grew on the root vegetables. It triggered a condition called hypersensitivity pneumonitis, a type of inflammation in the lungs that luckily cleared up after spending less time on the farm.

4. A Swollen Tongue.

Food allergies can sometimes exhibit themselves in the form of itchiness and swelling of the mouth, tongue, throat, lips, and face. 

This is known as oral allergy syndrome, a condition that occurs when your body perceives the protein found in fruit as the pollen in the air, which triggers an immune reaction. 

The syndrome affects 1/3 of allergy sufferers and especially those suffering from seasonal allergies.

soy milk and seafood

5. Nausea, Vomiting or Digestive Problems.

If you feel sick in your stomach and simultaneously the skin on your belly, extremities or armpits starts to itch, or if you experience any swelling on your tongue, you may be facing a food allergy.

Note that not only common foods such as seafood, berries, and nuts can cause allergies, other fruits, vegetables, and animal products can potentially be allergens. So, if you experience allergy symptoms and you recently tried a new type of food, dismiss it from your diet even if someone tells you it's hypoallergenic.

6. Poor Sleep and Behavioral Symptoms.

Restlessness, irritated or mischievous behavior in children can often be caused by a food allergy. Take a look at your child’s diet and try to identify the culprit, be it milk, gluten, nuts or other foods. 
a man covers his head with a pillow while sitting on a bed
Most likely, it is not the food itself that causes the behavior, but the lack of sleep the child suffers from. Adults also suffer from sleep deprivation as a result of allergies, but since adults are on average better at concealing their emotions, behavioral problems are not common. This doesn't mean, however, that you don't suffer from some food intolerance. For more about food intolerance symptoms, read our article about the warning signs of food intolerance.

7. Black Spots on the Skin.

A 2008 study in the journal Dermatitis reported a very strange reaction to poison ivy. Patients with this condition developed tiny black spots on the skin in places they contacted the plant.

The spots turned out to be the toxic resin from the plant that was encapsulated in the skin. The spots eventually disappeared as they peeled off, leaving no scarring.

posion ivy

8. Unusual Rashes.

One of the lesser known symptoms of allergic reactions are rashes other than hives. In fact, anything from contact with metals like nickel and aluminum that can often be found in jewelry, as well as some foods like berries, milk and even soy products can trigger a rash.

I, for one, develop a terrible rash on my hands after I eat tofu, though I develop no allergic symptoms when I drink soy milk or add soy sauce to my food. Another example is that of an 11-year-old boy who, in 2004, developed an itchy rash on his abdomen and under his wristwatch 7 days after he got braces. The boy had an allergy to the nickel in his braces. 


A friendly reminder that we urge you to talk about all of your health concerns with a doctor. The information is provided in this article for information purposes only and is not intended to diagnose an illness.

H/T: brightside.com, kevinmd.com, livescience.com

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