South Africans are gearing up for Valentine’s Day and many may be planning
special treats and romantic outings to impress a new love. But, be careful: your
new partner may be one of a growing number of South Africans who suffer from allergic
reactions to a multitude of different allergens, and your special night
could end in the doctor’s office with a wheezing, vomiting or sneezing partner
if you’re not careful.
“A romantic day of flowers, chocolates, dinner, presents and sex is filled with
possible allergens,” explains Mariska Fouche, head of public affairs at Pharma
Dynamics, a leading allergy medicine provider.
“Up to 40% of adults have allergies of some sort, with reactions ranging from
very mild to potentially fatal. If you know the symptoms and the triggers, you
can avoid putting a damper on Valentine’s Day, especially with a new
A run-through of a typical Valentine’s Day scenario is littered with possible
- Flowers: a beautiful bunch of flowers can trigger hay fever
or rhinitis, which is an immune disorder characterised by an allergic reaction
to pollen grains and other substances. Those with perennial hay fever will have
streaming eyes, nasal congestion and an itchy throat all year-long.
- Jewellery: one of the most common skin allergies is a
reaction to nickel, which leaves skin red, itchy and dry and could cause
blisters that crack, leaving you crusty and scaly. A lot of jewellery as well as
coins, zips and eyeglass frames contain nickel. Symptoms – generally a rash -
appear within six to 24 hours of exposure. If in doubt, rather choose
hypoallergenic jewellery that is made from 18ct gold, sterling silver, platinum
and polycarbonate plastic. Those who are sensitive to nickel should also avoid
eating nickel-rich foods like fish and chocolate.
- Dinner: seafood, nuts, chocolate, tomatoes, eggs, berries,
soy, wheat and milk could cause angioedema or hives, which is an outbreak of
swollen, pale red bumps, patches or welts on the skin. In severe cases,
angioedema of the throat, lungs or tongue can block the airways and make
- Sex: some people are allergic to the latex in condoms and,
in rare cases, even to the proteins in semen (seminal plasma hypersensitivity).
Even kissing may not be 100% safe: if you’ve eaten a food your partner is
allergic to, the allergens can be passed along in your saliva, causing a severe
reaction. An allergy to semen can be minimised over time by small doses to semen
so that immunity is slowly built up.
- Fluffy toys: soft toys could host millions of microscopic
dust mites, especially during the hot weather around Valentine’s Day. A dust
allergy has very similar symptoms to a pollen allergy: watering eyes, stuffy
nose and sneezing. Dust mites also love bedding so make sure you vacuum your
mattress and put on clean sheets washed in hot water before ending the night at
- Pampering makeover: women who want to look their best for
Valentine’s Day should always do a patch test before dying their hair or using a
new brand of make-up. In some cases, irritant contact dermatitis causes the skin
to burn, sting and even blister, especially on the face, lips, eyes, ears or
neck. If going to a spa, ensure that your therapist does a patch test. Allergens
are also present in perfumes or colognes, so be sure your partner can wear
fragrances before splashing out. Spritzing fragrance on your clothes rather than
skin can help minimise the chances of an allergic reaction.
Fouche suggests that allergy sufferers be upfront and honest about their
ailments and that they always carry their medication, like an antihistamine,
"If you’re on a date and you or your partner experience any symptoms of
allergies such as swollen lips, a sudden rash, vomiting, diarrhoea, an itchy
mouth or throat, wheezing or – in severe cases – anaphylactic shock, it is
critical to seek immediate medical attention."
- (Pharma Dynamics press
(Photo of man giving woman roses from Shutterstock)