Allergy Myths

04
Apr

Allergy Myths

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Myth #1: You can only develop food allergies when you are younger.

False.  About 15% of people who develop food allergies develop them when they are adults.  You can develop an allergy to any food at any time in life, although the most common food allergies to develop as an adult are nuts/peanuts and seafood/shellfish.  The peak decade you can develop allergies as an adult is in your 30’s (2).

Myth #2: Food allergies can cause chronic stomach pains.

False.  Food allergies can cause stomach pains, but when they do, stomach pains are rarely the only symptom.  Stomach pains from a food allergy are usually severe with accompanying vomiting and diarrhea.  Usually there are other symptoms like hives, throat swelling, trouble breathing, heart racing, and dizziness.  An allergic reaction usually occurs within minutes to a few hours of eating the food.  In other words, usually a food allergy reaction that gives you stomach symptoms is acute and severe, not chronic and mild/moderate.  You can usually figure out what food caused the reaction, avoid that food, and thus prevent chronic stomach issues (1).  If you are wondering if you are allergic to some food that is causing your stomach pains, but you don’t have a good idea what food is causing the symptoms, then it is unlikely a food allergy.

Myth #3: There are hypoallergenic breeds of dogs and cats for people who are allergic to these animals.

False.  There is no evidence that certain breeds are more hypoallergenic than others (6).

Myth #4: If you are allergic to eggs (even deathly allergic) you cannot get the regular flu vaccine.

False. The CDC now recommends that all people >6 months old, even those with a severe life threatening egg allergy, be given the regular flu vaccine every year.  A study was done where 4000 individuals with egg allergy were given the regular flu vaccine.   Over 500 of them had a history of a severe life threatening egg allergy.  None of them had a reaction to the flu vaccine (5).

Myth #5: Medication allergies always run in families.

False.  There are a few exceptions to this.  But the exceptions are few and far between (7).  Most antibiotic allergies are not genetic. Check with your doctor, but chances are if you have an allergy to a medication, your child does not have an increased risk of having a reaction to the same or related medication.  If your child has a reason to take a medication you are allergic too, and it is the 1st choice medication to be on, be open to the option of giving it to your child if a doctor recommends it.

Myth #6: The first thing you should try for your allergic runny nose is an over-the-counter allergy pill.

False.  The first thing you should try, if you have not already, is an over-the-counter nasal steroid like Nasacort, Rhinocort, Flonase, or their generics.  There is research showing they are much more effective than over-the-counter allergy pills.

Myth #7: Chronic hives are from a food allergy.

False.  It is rare that chronic hives are from a food allergy.  Usually chronic hives are idiopathic, meaning, there is no known cause.  Or, there are other triggers like cold, heat, or stress. Certain foods that are rich or spicy may make chronic hives worse, but avoiding these foods won’t necessarily make the hives go away (8).

Myth #8: If food allergies run in you or your family you should avoid giving those foods to your kids.

False.  A growing substantial amount of research shows that, even in families where food allergies run rampant, the earlier an infant is introduced to allergy-risk foods (after age 4-6 months) the less likely they are of developing an allergy to it (3).  With the exception of introducing cow’s milk at 12 months of age, all children should be introduced to all foods at home after 4-6 months of age, unless:

-Your child had a reaction to a certain food already before age 4-6 months

-Your child has a sibling that had a serious reaction to peanut

-Your child has moderate to severe eczema

Children who meet one of these criteria should have skin tests for, and possibly be introduced to, the allergy-risk food in an allergist’s office (3).

Myth #9: You should delay giving certain foods to all kids until a certain age to avoid developing food allergies.

False.  The American Academy of Pediatrics suggested back in 2000 that delaying certain allergy-risk foods until certain ages would help prevent food allergies, but this recommendation was based on weak evidence.  Since then, a lot of research has shown the opposite.  The earlier you introduce allergy-risk foods like egg, peanut, soy, fish, shellfish, nuts, milk, the less likely your child will be allergic to those foods (3).

Myth #10: If you have a bad reaction to a bee, wasp, or hornet sting, chances are the next time you get stung your reaction will be worse, maybe fatal.

False.  No matter what kind of reaction you have to a bee, wasp, or hornet sting, your chance of the reaction being worse the next time you get stung is <10% (4).   This is not downplaying the fact that if you have a life-threatening reaction to a bee sting once, it is true that the next time you get stung, it will also likely be life-threatening.

 

David Beckstead, MD

Canyon View Family Medicine

 

Resources:

  1. Burks, W. Clinical manifestations of food allergy: An overview. www.uptodate.com. Accessed 3/26/18.
  2. Commins, S. Food intolerance and food allergy in adults: An overview. www.uptodate.com. Accessed 3/26/18.
  3. Fleischer, DM. Introducing highly allergenic foods to infants and children. www.uptodate.com. Accessed 3/26/18.
  4. Freeman, T. Bee, yellow jacket, wasp, and other Hymenoptera stings: Reaction types and acute management. UpToDate. uptodate.com. Accessed 3/26/18
  5. Kelso, JM, Wang, J. Influenza vaccination in individuals with egg allergy. www.uptodate.com. Accessed 3/26/18.
  6. Lockey, RF. The myth of hypoallergenic dogs (and cats). PubMed. J Allergy Clin Immunol. 2012 Oct;130(4):910-1.
  7. Pichler, WJ. An approach to the patient with drug allergy. www.uptodate.com Accessed 3/30/18.
  8. Saini, S. Chronic urticaria: Clinical manifestations, diagnosis, pathogenesis, and natural history. www.uptodate.com Accessed 3/26/18.

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