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Separating Allergy Fact from Fiction

The Greatest Allergy Myths and Misconceptions, Debunked

Allergy image

From gluten allergy and hypoaller­genic pets, to avoiding the flu shot because of an egg allergy, there are a lot of common myths and miscon­ceptions about allergies. Many might be shocking due to a great deal of false information in the media and on the Internet. And some of the misconcep­tions can be damaging to your health if vaccinations are skipped and extreme dietary avoidances are taken.

Where did all these misconceptions come from? According to a presentation given at the 70th Annual Scientific Meet­ing of the American College of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology, previously held medical beliefs and public perception are partially to blame.

“Many early medical beliefs have been proven to be incorrect as research has advanced,” says allergist David Stukus, MD, ACAAI member and pre­senter. “Unfortunately, some of these beliefs are still on the Internet, where an astonishing 72 percent of users turn to for health information.”

At-home allergy screening tests are not reliable
and can often lead to misinterpretation, diagnostic confusion, and
unnecessary dietary elimination.

According to Dr. Stukus, the fol­lowing are some of the greatest allergy myths:

I’m Allergic to Artificial Dyes
There is no scientific evidence to support a link between exposure to artificial coloring and allergies. Controversy exists regarding evidence for artificial color­ing and behavioral changes in children, as well as dyes causing chronic urticaria and asthma.

I Can’t Have Vaccines Due to an Egg Allergy
Egg embryos are used to grow viruses for vaccines such as the flu, yellow fever, and rabies shot. However, it’s now safe for egg-allergic individuals to get the flu shot, which can help prevent serious illness.

At-Home Blood Tests Reveal What You’re Allergic To
These tests might be able to reveal sensitization, but be­ing sensitized to a certain allergen, like milk, doesn’t mean you’re allergic to it. These sort of at-home screening tests are not reliable and can often lead to misinterpretation, diagnostic confusion, and unnecessary dietary elimination.

Highly Allergenic Foods Shouldn’t Be Given to Children until 12 Months of Age
For most children, there is no evidence to support avoidance of highly allergenic foods past four to six months of age. Emerging evidence shows that early introduction of highly allergenic foods may actually promote tolerance.

I’m Allergic to Cats and Dogs, but I Can Have a Hypoallergenic Breed
Unfortunately, there is no such thing as a truly hypoallergenic dog or cat. Allergens are released in saliva, seba­ceous glands, and perianal glands; it’s not the animals’ fur that people are al­lergic to. However, it is true that some breeds are more bothersome for allergy fighters than others.

I’m Allergic to Shellfish and Can’t Have Iodine Imaging
Radiologists and cardiologists often use iodinated contrast for better imaging during CT scans and other procedures. Since shellfish contain iodine, many physi­cians have linked a contrast reaction to shellfish allergy. However, this is false, and a shellfish allergy has noth­ing to do with the reaction. In fact, iodine is not and cannot be an allergen, as it is found in the human body.

I Can’t Eat Bread – I’m Allergic to Gluten
You may have a gluten intoler­ance, but it’s extremely rare to have a true allergy. Most allergic reactions to these types of foods stem from wheat allergy. Many people self-label as having gluten allergy and avoid gluten without any medical indication.

With information being widespread online and via social media portals, how can you know what to believe and what not to believe? “If you think you may have an allergy, you should see a board-certified allergist for proper evaluation, testing, diagnosis, and treatment,” says Dr. Stukus. “Misdiagnosis and inappropriate treatment can be dangerous.”

 

Visit AllergyAndAsthmaRelief.org for more information on allergies, and to find an allergist in your area.

This article was originally published in Coping® with Allergies & Asthma magazine, May/June 2014.