One of the first thoughts to occur to many people upon discovering they have a long-term condition is understandably: how is this going to affect my life?
And this is also often the case for those learning they have an allergy for the first time.
Implementing certain lifestyle changes and dietary adjustments are common considerations for the newly-diagnosed, and it can be easy to feel as though one’s life isn’t as broad and varied as it might have once been.
Allergy UK reports that around 150 million people in Europe are thought to be living with at least one allergy, making it the commonest chronic illness.
But while living with a common allergy can be frustrating and often a hindrance, it needn’t necessarily be an obstacle to success, or a full and varied lifestyle. Many living with allergies go on to achieve their goals, and accomplish great things.
The week of 25th April to the 1st of May marks Allergy Awareness Week, a campaign which aims to promote understanding of how these conditions can impact upon the lives of those susceptible to them.
With this in mind, we wanted to do our bit to help those with allergies realise that their condition doesn’t necessarily mean they have to compromise their ambitions.
So we put together the following: a list of 19 individuals reported to be living with allergies, who have risen to the very peak of their respective professions.
Nuts and shellfish
In addition to Ray Romano, Serena Williams and Jessica Alba (all reported to be allergic to nuts), and Halle Berry, Steve Martin, Billy Bob Thornton and Kelis (reported as being allergic to shellfish or shrimp), food allergies are estimated by the World Allergy Organisation to affect between 220 and 520 million people worldwide.
When it comes to food, some might not experience an allergic response unless they physically ingest an allergen; whereas others have reported experiencing symptoms by simply coming into close proximity. This is why many airlines are removing nuts from the list of in-flight snacks they have available.
Certain food allergies, particularly in the case of nuts and shrimp, may trigger a reaction called anaphylaxis. This is sometimes characterised by sudden swelling of the face, mouth or throat, and a drastic change in heart rate and breathing. Consequently, an anaphylactic episode can potentially be life-threatening.
That’s why it’s vital in these instances to always carry an EpiPen. These are small injectable devices that deliver a dose of adrenaline, which helps to re-establish normal blood pressure and restore breathing.
Wheat and dairy intolerances
While food intolerances are not strictly allergies, they can nevertheless fluctuate with regard to the degree of discomfort they cause. Wheat and dairy are the most common offenders.
According to Coeliac UK, around one in 100 people in the UK are known to be gluten intolerant; but they also estimate that 24 percent of those with the condition go undiagnosed, meaning the actual number of those affected could be much higher.
British Nutrition Foundation states that the number of those in the UK who have some degree of maldigestive condition sensitive to lactose is thought to be around five percent; however due to the varying presence of dairy in common diets throughout the world, global prevalence may be much higher.
Lionel Richie has been reported as being dairy intolerant, and Jessica Simpson reportedly has an intolerance to wheat and gluten.
Zooey Deschanel has alluded in interviews to her intolerances to certain foods, which include wheat and dairy. For a short period she even adopted veganism according to Vulture.com, but gave it up as this further drastically limited her diet choices.
The good news for those with food intolerances is that supermarkets and restaurants have recognised how common they are, and are eager to tap into the market.
This means that those with a free-from diet now have more choice than ever, and food outlets are much more accommodating than they used to be. Several restaurant chains offer gluten-free versions of menu items, while a concerted effort to expand free-from sections in larger grocery stores has been made in recent years.
Shops and cookery books which specialise in dairy- or gluten-free dishes have also undergone a surge in popularity, as the food industry responds to increased demand for products and recipes of this type.
Many think that the hair of an animal itself is the offending substance for those with allergies, but in actual fact it is substances found in the animal’s bodily fluids, including the sweat, urine or saliva, which cause the reaction. When dogs and cats groom themselves, this transfers these substances to hair and skin cells (dander), which acts as an airborne conduit for the allergen, triggering rhinitis.
Recording artist Alanis Morissette has been reported to be allergic to cats; while Kim Kardashian’s allergy to her pet cat was famously documented by her TV show, and this resulted in her sister’s PA adopting the pet.
Those with severe allergies to pet hair should obviously take whatever measures they can to avoid it, but those with milder instances may be able to reduce symptoms by:
- washing their hands after stroking a pet
- not letting their pet into the bedroom, so irritants are not breathed in during sleep
- regularly cleaning the home and cat or dog beds
- and keeping the home well-ventilated
Grass pollen is the most prevalent allergen of all. According to the NHS, as many as 20 percent of people will experience hay fever symptoms at least once.
Many with the condition will develop recurrent flare-ups on a seasonal basis. Grass pollen levels are typically at their highest during the spring and early summer months, and this is consequently the most troublesome time of year. Antihistamines can help to reduce the presence of symptoms during more difficult periods, when pollen levels are high.
Exercising and competing in outdoor sports during this time then can obviously be difficult for those with hay fever; but not impossible. Multiple-time champion golfer Tiger Woods is a prime example.
Safely exercising with allergies is a subject we’ve already covered in some detail, but those with hay fever might also be interested to know that the list of famous people who share their condition is a long and distinguished one. Scarlett Johansson, Jon Bon Jovi (no stranger to performing in outdoor environments), Selena Gomez and Orlando Bloom are just a handful of notable people reported to have hay fever.
It was during an episode of The Celebrity Apprentice in which Cyndi Lauper alluded to her dust allergy, which once again is incredibly common.
Allergy UK note that in most cases it isn’t the dust particles themselves which trigger allergic rhinitis, or the dust mites which feed on dead skin cells; in fact it’s the (brace yourself) protein substance contained in fecal matter that the mites leave behind.
To lower the irritation caused by dust mites, it’s vital to:
- vacuum carpets and fibres in living areas around the home regularly
- and keep surfaces clean with a damp cloth
Antonio Banderas is reported to be among the 1-7 percent of the global population allergic to insect stings; in his case, it’s bees.
Reactions to bee or wasp stings can sometimes be local and induce mild swelling; but in others they can cause a much more serious anaphylactic response.
Once again, for those at risk, carrying an EpiPen is of crucial importance.
In 2014, CNN reported that Miley Cyrus was monitored in hospital after experiencing an allergic reaction to antibiotics.
Medications can cause side effects in many people and interactions with other treatments. Allergy UK notes that real ‘allergies’ to medicines are rare, but antibiotics are among those more likely to cause an allergic response. This is why doctors will routinely enquire about a patient’s allergy status, as well as their medical history, before prescribing a treatment.
For those with allergies, the safest thing to do is disclose all relevant information to your doctor during a consultation, so that the risk of adverse effects (allergic responses included) are minimal.
You can find out more about Allergy Awareness Week over on the Allergy UK website.