On an evening out with his family last Sunday, businessman Ashok Lakhotia hardly gave a thought before gorging on samosas and sweets at a popular eatery in central Calcutta. By midnight, he had rashes all over the body. His doctor diagnosed it as an allergy.
On the eve of World Allergy Day, experts sounded an allergy alert in Calcutta, saying rapid changes in lifestyle are triggering various types of allergies.
'These days, people can't make do without soft drinks, butter, painkillers ' a few items that contain allergens,' said S.R. Sengupta, head of the dermatology department at SSKM Hospital.
The doctor said allergies, like the highly-common urticaria, are caused by various types of additives and preservatives that are randomly used in various dairy products, soft drinks and some fast food.
'You can't stop people from consuming these items. At the same time, you can't overlook the resultant hazards,' said Sengupta. 'The best one can do is to be conscious of what he/she eats.'
Doctors say at least 20 per cent of the total dermatological cases reported in the city are types of allergies. 'With every passing day, a higher number of people are suffering from allergies. But most of the victims are ignorant of this fact,' revealed Sengupta.
Also, opting for over-the-counter pills may not only cause allergies but also aggravate them, warn doctors.
'Medicines like nimesulide, ibuprofen, the aspirin group of painkillers and antibiotics of the penicillin group are used freely. Some of these can cause fatal allergies,' said dermatologist Sanjay Ghosh, medical director of Institute of Allergic & Immunologic Skin Diseases.
The dreaded Steven Johnson's Syndrome, toxic epidermal necrolysis (TEN) and drug hyper-sensitivity (all perceived to be fatal) can sometimes be caused by such drugs.
'In most of these diseases, eruptions appear inside the mouth, eyes, genitalia, or in the kidneys and liver. These ailments are rare, but they can occur,' Ghosh said.
Urticaria, which causes intolerable itching and reddish swelling all over the body, in some cases accompanied by gastric trouble, is spreading rapidly. Additives and preservatives in processed foods are generally responsible for it, experts said.