An allergy is an overreaction by the body’s immune system to generally harmless substances in the environment. Allergies are most often caused by foods, insect stings, medications, and particles in the air, such as pollen. Most common allergies are mild and include reactions like red, itchy eyes, a runny nose, or hives. However, allergies can produce more extreme reactions by the body including difficulty breathing, prolonged skin irritations, and, in the most extreme cases, anaphalaxis.
There are two ways to qualify for Social Security disability benefits for allergies. First, if your allergies have caused a chronic-related condition, such as asthma or dermatitis, the condition must meet the qualifications of Social Security's disability listing for that condition. Second, if you can show that you need to work in a highly restrictive environment to prevent the possibility of anaphylaxis, you might be approved for benefits if Social Security determines that there isn't a job you can do in a safe environment.
Anaphylaxis is a severe allergic reaction that affects the respiratory, cardiovascular, and digestive systems. Generally it is characterized by swelling, hives, lowered blood pressure, and dilated blood vessels. Specifically, the effects on the respiratory system may include wheezing, difficulty breathing, and difficulty swallowing. The effects on the cardiovascular system may include a change in heart rate and even cardiac arrest. The effects on the digestive system may include cramping, diarrhea, and vomiting. In severe cases and without treatment, an individual can go into shock. Hospitalization and close monitoring by doctors is needed if anaphylaxis occurs.
Allergies are not specifically listed in the Social Security blue book, but severe allergies can sometimes affect other body systems. The two most common systems affected by allergies are your respiratory system, by making asthma worse, and your skin, by causing contact dermatitis. The disability listings for these conditions are discussed briefly below since they are the most likely apply to allergy suffers. However, it is important to assess your individual impairments to determine if you might meet another disability listing. See our complete list of disability listings.
Allergies can often cause asthma to become worse. Asthma attacks caused by allergies that occur frequently and require hospitalization can meet the requirements of the disability listing for asthma. (The asthma listing requires that you have severe asthma attacks at least every other month, or six times per year.
Allergies can cause dermatitis, an inflammatory skin rash. "Allergic contact dermatitis" is a disorder triggered by previous exposure a particular substance, including various chemicals found in soaps, shampoos, and cosmetics, or an antigen like poison oak.
To qualify for disability under the disability listing for dermatitis, your allergy must cause skin irritations that restrict your movement and last at least three months despite treatment. Social Security will look at the frequency and duration of skin flare-ups and the likelihood of the dermatitis being healed or controlled through medication.
Your medical records should include the location, size, and appearance of the skin irritations and any laboratory test results. You are also required to submit a history of treatments, your response to those treatments, any adverse from those treatments, and the expected length that you are expected to need to be on those medications.
If Social Security doesn't find that your allergies don't meet the qualifications of one of the disability listings, you could still be eligible for Social Security Disability benefits if you are unable to work because of the limitations caused by your allergy. The greatest limitations caused by allergies are environmental restrictions. For instance, those with a severe latex allergy may be restricted from working around latex-containing products, such as rubber gloves, computer parts, medical products, some furnishings and clothing, and more. Those who suffer from allergies that result in dermatitis or asthma (but don't meet the listings) might be prevented from returning to work based on their physical limitations as well.
If you suffer severe allergies and need a very restrictive environment to function at a level that allows you to successfully complete a job, Social Security will include these details in a residual functional capacity (RFC) assessment that lays out your limitations.
You should include the following in your medical record or the documentation you submit to Social Security:
Your personal history regarding allergies and your ability to function outside of a highly protective area are very important in showing how your allergies are affecting your life.
Learn more about how Social Security uses your RFC to decide if you're disabled.