Allergies are one of the leading causes of chronic illness, affecting over 50 million Americans every year. As one of the most common conditions, allergies can range in severity from mild to life-threatening. Despite the prevalence of allergies, there is a lot of misinformation regarding this condition. Here are some of the top five allergy myths that you may be familiar with:
Myth 1: Once an Allergy Develops, You’re Stuck With it for Life
One of the most common myths about allergies is that once an allergy develops, you are stuck with it for life. Although many allergies are lifelong, research indicates that close to 20% of children grow out of their food allergies. This phenomenon is more likely to occur in children with food allergies to eggs, milk, soy, or wheat, while allergies to nuts and shellfish are more likely to persist into adulthood. In fact, a vast majority of children with a milk or egg allergy will outgrow it by early adulthood.
Myth 2: Hypoallergenic Animals Don’t Cause Allergies
Unfortunately, there is no such thing as a truly hypoallergenic pet. Hypoallergenic is a term that describes animal breeds that are known for producing fewer allergens. However, studies have found that non-hypoallergenic and hypoallergenic breeds have similar allergen levels in their coats and saliva. In some cases, pet allergies may be exacerbated by certain breeds and milder around others, but it varies from person to person.
Typically, the primary culprit of animal allergies is not their fur but their pet dander. Pet dander comprises of the microscopic flecks of skin that animals shed. Due to how small pet dander is, it can stay suspended in the air or on fabrics and household items for weeks. While pet dander is the leading cause of animal allergies, other proteins found in saliva, urine, and feces can additionally cause a reaction.
Myth 3: Allergies Occur Due to Lack of Early Exposure
One of the most frequently seen myths surrounding this condition is that allergies occur due to a lack of early exposure to the allergen. As a result, some people believe that the affected person can build up a tolerance by coming into contact with the allergen. However, repeated exposure to a substance that a person is allergic to can lead to anaphylaxis.
Myth 4: Food Allergies and Food Intolerances Are The Same
A food allergy occurs when your immune system has a reaction to a particular food, while food intolerance is a digestive response. Both can have uncomfortable symptoms, but a food allergy is a life-threatening condition that causes the body to release histamines as a defense mechanism.
Food allergies may lead to a spectrum of symptoms, from a mild skin reaction to anaphylaxis. Even trace amounts of an allergy-inducing food can lead to this reaction, also known as anaphylactic shock. Without treatment, anaphylactic shock can worsen quickly and lead to a coma or death within 15 minutes.
Food intolerance can irritate a person’s digestive system, but people with food intolerances do not have to completely eradicate the food from their diet – though they may choose to. An additional difference between food allergies and food intolerances is that those with a food intolerance may experience a skin reaction, like redness, swelling, or a rash.
Patients with food allergies will have a positive allergy skin and blood test. In contrast, patients who consistently receive negative skin and/or IgE testing results for food that causes them symptoms typically have a food intolerance.
Myth 5: Allergy-Inducing Ingredients Will Always Be Listed On Product Labels
The Food Allergen Labeling and Consumer Protection Act (FALCPA) outlines that the eight most common allergens must be listed on food labels since they account for over 90% of all food allergies. However, more than 160 foods have been identified as an allergen, and they may not be on food labels. Remember to always read packaging labels and nutrition facts and ask questions about ingredients before consuming a product if you have multiple food allergies.
Take Control of Your Allergies With Northeast Allergy
At Northeast Allergy, we recognize the impact that allergies can have on your daily life. If you or a loved one suffers from allergies, it is essential to know the facts about your condition so you can stay safe and seek the necessary treatment. If you are interested in learning more about your allergies and our various treatment options, contact us today, and avoid the most common allergy myths.