When thinking about allergies, joint pain as a manifestation would not easily come to mind. For individuals suffering from inflammatory joint conditions such as arthritis, allergies can cause pain attacks due to inflammation.
What are allergies?
Allergies or an allergic reaction occurs when the immune system responds to a foreign substance (e.g. bee venom, pollen, dust mites, nuts) that does not really cause a reaction in most people. In this medical condition, the body’s immune system creates antibodies which recognize a specific allergen as harmful, even if it really isn’t. Hence, when an individual with sensitivities come in contact with an allergen, a system wide inflammation occurs which usually involves the airways, gastrointestinal system, sinuses, skin and joints.
Linking allergies with joint pain
1. Seasonal allergies and Joint Pain
Specific months of the year can be vicious to individuals suffering from seasonal allergies. Symptoms may include those that affect the eyes, noses and throats. Some people may even experience pain on their joints. However, the question remains whether this specific discomfort is caused by seasonal allergies or something entirely unrelated.
Primarily, differentiating a cold from seasonal allergies can be quite difficult as both condition share similar manifestations such as watery and itchy eyes, sore throat, nasal congestion, runny nose, sneezing and even headaches. Seasonal allergies may also cause joint pains (in more severe cases) however; it is most likely to occur with colds. If it’s difficult to attribute the presence of joint pain with these two conditions, other signs and symptoms should be carefully considered. For instance, if joint pain is accompanied by a fever – it is most likely a cold. However, if the joint pain presents with itchy throat and eyes, sneezing and a runny nose – it is most certainly caused by allergies.
Aching of joints may be present in allergies as there is an increase in inflammatory response while the body tries to fight off substances that it perceives as threat. This usually leads to throat, eyes and nose inflammation as the body exert efforts to eliminate allergen. However, it may also influence the joints particularly in severe cases. Moreover, allergies exhausts the body, therefore, it is probable that having aching joints is another adverse effect associated with seasonal allergies. Lastly, weather-related changes such as damp and cold climate often cause pain in the joints.
Seasonal allergies may be related to joint pain (though indirectly). However, it is possible that some other type of allergic reaction is responsible for this medical problem (e.g. food allergies).
2. Food Allergies and Joint Pain
Food allergies are common particularly in children. In some cases, allergies tend to be inherited. It is important to note however that this condition is difficult to predict amongst families. An individual may develop allergies towards some foods at any age.
Some of the most common food sources that triggers allergic reaction includes peanuts, tree nuts, shellfish, milks, eggs, soy and its products, fish and wheat. This type of allergic reaction is caused by the immune system’s overreaction towards the food or its components. Remember that the immune system protects the body from harmful organisms such as bacteria and viruses. During an allergic reaction, the immune system recognizes the proteins present in the food ingested as toxic and harmful which leads to unnecessary excessive reaction to protect the body.
Symptoms associated with food allergies often involve the cardiovascular, respiratory and gastrointestinal system. It may present as vomiting, coughing, difficulty in breathing, feeling faint, shock, wheezing, hives, weakened pulse, pallor, hoarse throat and difficulty swallowing. A possible reaction includes anaphylaxis – a life threatening condition impairing a person’s ability to breathe subsequently sending the body into a state of shock. In addition to this, knee and shoulder joint pain may occur.
Joint inflammation and pain can result from food allergy. Experts agree that any substance that triggers immune system reaction can lead to joint pain in different parts of the body. Hence, individuals suffering from inflammatory joint conditions such as arthritis may experience pain flare-ups after eating foods they are allergic with.
Preventing joint pain from allergic reactions
The most effective method to prevent and treat joint pain includes identifying the foods and substances that one is allergic to. For food allergies, elimination diet and some allergy tests (e.g. skin tests, IgE antibodies testing) may help determine the foods a person is allergic with. A food elimination test may be done through removing a specific food in the diet within a few weeks and re-introducing it to assess whether the body reacts to it or not. Ensuring decreased exposure with allergens during certain seasons and avoiding exposure to cold and damp climates could also help in preventing joint pain. Use of antihistamines, anti-inflammatory and decongestants (with doctor’s advice), humidifiers and filters could also help in promoting relief from seasonal allergic reactions and joint pain.
When to call the doctor
Despite best efforts and combination of non-aggressive methods to prevent, achieve relief and treat allergies and still, the pain does not resolve over a given period of time, scheduling an appointment with a healthcare provider might be necessary.