anaphylaxis

Perhaps the strangest medical phenomenon discovered in recent years is a link between the lone star tick and an allergy to red meat.

The bite of a lone star tick exposes a person to a small carbohydrate called alpha-gal. In a handful of people, this exposure elicits an abnormal immune response that produces a type of antibody called IgE, which causes allergies. Because red meat also contains alpha-gal, people who have been sensitized to the carbohydrate from a tick bite can develop life-threatening anaphylaxis if they consume pork or beef. 

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On my recent flight to New York City, an attendant announced that a passenger had a severe peanut allergy. If any of us had brought food containing peanuts, it was requested that we put it away for the entire flight. I poked fun at this on my Facebook page, after which I was castigated for my insensitivity and lack of compassion.

"It's the recirculated air," one person said.

"It can be ingested through particles circulated in the air," chimed in another.

A teacher weighed in, too: "A child in my class... went in to shock after touching the same door knob that someone who had... peanuts had touched earlier."

No, that's not how it works. The apparently widespread belief that recirculated peanut-tainted air can kill unsuspecting children is based on several...

Medicine bottle with warning label

Many people think they have a drug allergy, when in fact what they have is drug intolerance. According to the CDC, approximately 10% of all U.S. patients report having an allergic reaction to penicillin, but fewer than 1% of the population is truly allergic to penicillins. Furthermore, approximately 80% of patients with penicillin allergy lose their sensitivity after 10 years, but continue to report the allergy.

An allergic reaction is an immune-mediated response to a drug, which leads to skin rash, face or throat swelling, difficulty in breathing, and in some cases, life threatening...

drugs-e1349801738965-225x138-1Anaphylaxis (a severe, systemic allergic reaction) can be life-threatening. While this life-threatening reaction is quite uncommon, among the commonest causes of anaphylaxis include drug allergies, food allergies, and insect bites and stings. People who are known to be susceptible to severe reactions (to, e.g., insect stings) often carry an emergency supply of a reliable, injectable antidote, usually an Epi-Pen or a variant thereof.

A new analysis published in The Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology...