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TOTAL ALLERGY SYNDROME An allergic response to 'everything'

We all know of people who are allergic to something. but the term total allergy syndrome has recently been coined to describe an allergic response to 'everything'. Does this condition really exist or is it a misnomer?

Q Is total allergy syndrome a condition that appears suddenly, or does it develop over a period of time?

A People with extensive allergies usually displayed some allergic tendencies in childhood, suffering from conditions such as eczema, asthma or hay fever. The number of foods and other environmental substances that they are allergic to may increase as they grow older. This of course produces a tremendous strain on even the most robust personality. It is hardly surprising that in some people other symptoms and patterns of behaviour which are not due to immune problems start to occur and these can be highly distressing

Q How common is total allergy syndrome?

A Doctors on the whole do not regard total allergy syndrome as a separate disease in itself, although there certainly are extreme forms of allergic susceptibility. The term 'total allergy' is a misnomer, since even the most severely affected patients can tolerate certain foods. But however the disease is classified, it is clear that only a very few people with allergic tendencies ever develop a sensitivity to more than one or two substances.

Q Is total allergy syndrome a purely '20th century' disease as people have said?

A People who have multiple allergies are sometimes said to be 'allergic to the 20th century'. That does not necessarily mean that severe allergy never existed before: its apparent novelty owes much to the fact that a term has only recently been coined by the media to describe it.

In spite of this, however, it is possible to expect the increased numbers of additives in the food we eat, or the wide range of cosmetics available, to cause an increase in the incidence of allergic disease, if only because there are now many

more substances for people to be allergic to.

Sufferers with what is called total allergy seem to become severely ill when exposed to any of a wide range of substances in their environment.

Causes, symptoms and dangers All types of allergic disease are a result of a defect in the body's immune system. When a substance recognized as 'foreign' enters the body. it provokes the pro­duction of substances called antibodies. When the foreign substance enters the body again, the antibodies bind to the intruder, rendering the body immune.

Unfortunately. some people form anti­bodies to quite harmless substances, and the binding of antibody to intruder may inappropriately trigger off the release of a number of other chemicals concerned with the body's defence. These produce unpleasant effects such as asthma, runny nose, skin rashes and vomiting.

Most people with an allergic predis­position become sensitized to just one or two substances. and their symptoms on re-exposure are generally quite mild. In the more severe cases of allergy, though, not only are the s:l11ptoms more alarm­ing, with such things as joint pains and bleeding from the large bowel, but people may become sensitive to a variety of substances. particularly foods.

However. some symptoms in the so-called total allergy syndrome are ,,~:: likely to happen as a result of imIC':.lI:;:' disorders. In particular, allergy does no: make people lose consciousness, although it may certainly cause headaches and a disabling sense of ill-health.

There is also an alarming range of substances that can produce allergies. and in the case of food allergy it is the rule rather than the exception to be allergic to more than one food. It seems very likely that multiple food allergy is at the basis of 'total allergy'. Yet some sections of the medical profession are sceptical. It is hardly surprising that some people may suffer from the stress of the situation, with the result that anxiety symptoms occur which are not directly related to any action of the immune system.


It is very difficult to help people whose disease has made such an impact on their lives that they are thought to suffer from the 'total allergy syndrome'. Drugs have only a limited place in the treatment of allergy, and the basis of treating the food allergies is to identify the foods respon­sible and exclude them from the diet.

Because she suffers from 'total allergy syndrome', Amanda Strang has retreated to the relative safety of her own home.


Taken from The Marshall Cavendish A  to Z GUIDE IN WEEKLY PARTS,  DOCTOR’S ANSWERS: PART 88, TOTAL ALLERGY SYNDROME, Page 2419.


(Sorry. Due to the urgency of education on this site, spelling will be corrected at a later stage….All photos in the  script have been left out)

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