Allergy experts in clinical practice often spend a considerable amount of time counselling patients about nonsensical myths. In this section we debunk some of the worst misconceptions and allergy myths.
By Dr Adrian Morris
1. Short haired dogs do not cause allergies
All dogs can cause allergies, it is the skin flakes (dander) and saliva that cause allergies and not the hair. Short haired female dogs do however tend to shed less dander.
2. Goat’s milk is a good substitute in cow’s milk allergy
Goat’s milk has many similar casein proteins to cow’s milk, so can also trigger a reaction and is only tolerated in about 40% of cow’s milk allergic children.
3. Iodine allergic individuals should avoid all fish and shellfish
Fish do not contain significant amounts of iodine and will not cause problems in iodine allergic people.
4. Adrenaline injectors are dangerous and may damage your heart
Adrenaline (epinephrine) auto-injectors are life-saving in people with severe allergies to foods or insect stings. They are safe to inject into the muscle of the thigh as soon as possible in a severe allergic reaction. If administered by mistake, you may feel slightly agitated and your heart will race, but the effect will wear off.
5. Your allergic reaction will get worse with each subsequent exposure
There is no predicting how you might react subsequently, a reaction may be exactly the same, it may be more severe or it may be less severe.
6. It is fine to give “a little bit” of egg or cow’s milk occasionally to build up tolerance
This is not true and dangerous advice in highly egg or milk allergic children.
7. If you are allergic to egg white you can eat the egg yolk
This is a dangerous practice, as there will be albumen proteins attached to the yolk.
8. Children will outgrow their allergies
Some children will outgrown their allergies, but the majority will retain their allergies especially allergies to foods such as nuts and fish. At least 50% of allergies to pets, pollen and dust mites also persist into adult life.
9. Allergies are all in the mind
Allergies are potentially life threatening reactions to common environmental substances and foods which result in allergic inflammation. Emotions can exacerbate symptoms, but are never the main cause.
10. Multiple food allergies are common
Fortunately food allergies are usually limited. Up to 4 food types are usual with some cross-reactions to unrelated food families. For example, Latex allergy sufferers may react with oral allergies to kiwi, avocado, banana and chestnut.
11. Allergy testing is a waste of time because a person will probably react to everything
Allergy testing is accurate and testing should be done after carefully discussing the person’s symptoms and medical history. Most allergic people will react to a few allergens which once identified can then be avoided.
12. Allergy testing is dangerous and should not be performed in young children
Occasionally skin testing for allergies can trigger a slight skin reaction or wheezing, but this is very rare. Blood RAST testing for allergies is safer in highly allergic people. Children can and should be allergy tested from 4 months of age if an allergy is suspected.
13. Desensitisation to allergies is hocus-pocus
Injection (SIT) or Sublingual (SLIT) desensitisation immunotherapy is highly effective and the only way of curing allergies to Grass Pollen, House dust mites and Insect Venom. Remember that EPD (Enzyme Potentiated Desensitisation) is not effective.
14. Indoor house plants and flowers cause allergic rhinitis
Allergic rhinitis is usually triggered by outdoor grass and tree pollens. Dull wind-pollinated plants and grasses cause more allergies than brightly coloured outdoor insect-pollinated flowers. However indoor cut flowers such as Lilies give off brightly coloured pollens and can cause conjunctivitis symptoms in sensitised individuals.
15. Building dust causes allergic rhinitis
It is the powdered faecal pellets of House dust mites and Cockroaches that cause allergies and not the dust particles or sand grains.
16. If you have allergies you are better off living in a desert or dry climate
Allergy provoking plants such as grasses, weeds, olive and mesquite trees thrive in dry semi-desert environments and allergies may actually be worse.
17. Intentionally exposing yourself to pets can cure allergies
If allergic to pets, your allergies will be provoked by each exposure and this will make matters worse. However some people develop tolerance to their pet with time.
18. Milk and wheat allergies are common in adults
Cow’s milk allergy occurs in some children but is usually outgrown by age 5 years; wheat allergy starting in adulthood is very rare.
19. People with sinus and ear problems should avoid milk
Sinus problems and chest problems are not provoked by cow’s milk allergy. Watery post nasal mucus often feels perceivably thicker when mixed with cow’s milk during meals and therefore increases awareness of the mucus
20. Food allergic people usually react to strawberries and tomato
The common food allergies in children are cow’s milk, wheat, egg, fish and peanuts, while adults react to fish, shellfish, peanuts and nuts. Strawberries and Tomato contain histamine so may provoke pseudo-allergies if eaten in excess.
21. Food allergies cause hyperactivity
Food allergies cannot trigger hyperactivity. Children with ADDH (hyperactivity) may become more active (“sugar rush”) after consuming artificially coloured sweets and junk foods, this is not an allergy.
22. Asthma inhalers can make your allergies worse and you should rather use breathing exercises (Buteyko)
Asthma is due to inflamed airways, breathing exercises will not this clear inflammation, only low-dose steroid inhalers can do this and control the asthma. Breathing exercises may have a complementary effect but its the airway inflamation that needs attention in asthma.
23. Antihistamines will loose their effect if taken continuously and will then be ineffective if you have a severe allergic reaction
Antihistamines can safely be taken for prolonged periods and do not become less effective. However some people do develop an element of Tachyphylaxis or tolerance, so it is best to occasionally change the band of antihistamine.
24. Steroid creams are dangerous, causing skin thinning in eczema and should not be applied to children’s skin
Steroid creams are the only effective treatment for clearing eczema and will have no adverse effect if use for short periods of up to a week at a time. Once cleared of eczema, the skin should be continuously protected with a moisturising ointment.
25. The MMR (measles, mumps & rubella) vaccine should be avoided in children with egg allergy
The MMR vaccine contains no hens egg protein and is safe to give to egg allergic children. But the Influenza vaccine and Yellow Fever vaccines are produced on hens eggs, and are contraindicated in severe egg allergy.
And I am sure there must be 100s more!
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