It’s easy to see why allergy myths are so widespread. Allergic disorders are very common in children and are on the rise around the world. In fact, the word “allergy” is now used so casually that it can sometimes be hard to know when someone is describing an actual allergy, an intolerance, or is simply experiencing discomfort. In fact, there are several commonly-believed myths about allergies and allergic disorders that have no scientific basis at all. We clear them up with allergy facts.
Ready to tackle some commonly-believed allergy myths? See how well you can separate allergy facts from fiction as we do a bit of allergy myth-busting.
5 Surprisingly Common Allergy Myths Banished by Allergy Facts
Myth #1: Allergy is a disease vs. Allergy Facts
First, the basics: ‘allergy’ does not describe a single disease. The general term allergy describes an abnormality that causes the immune system to reject substances that the body would normally recognize as harmless.
This immune system rejection can produce any of several diseases depending on which organ is engaged. For example, if it engages the nose, the result can be allergic rhinitis. If it involves the skin, it can causes atopic dermatitis. An allergic reaction could describe any of the resulting diseases from immune system rejection. The underlying abnormality, however, is with the immune system.
Myth #2: Once allergic; always allergic vs. Allergy Facts
The answer is: sometimes. Many children have milk allergies in their first few years, but as many as 80% of them outgrow them by the age of five. This may not be true for nut or shellfish allergies. Most patients with such allergies remain allergic to those foods for the rest of their lives.
It’s actually possible to outrun environmental allergies: Someone who is allergic to a specific type of pollen could live symptom-free after moving to a place where that pollen is not present in the environment.
Myth #3: Allergy can be caused by any substance vs. Allergy Facts
Scientifically, allergic reactions are a response by our immune system to proteins in otherwise harmless substances. So generally, allergens have an organic component. Think food, pollen, animal dander, bugs bite and dust mites. Of course, there are exceptions. For example, certain metals (which don’t contain proteins) can cause contact dermatitis, which is typically recognized as a type of allergic reaction.
Myth #4: Food intolerance and food allergies are the same vs. Allergy Facts
This is one of the most common myths regarding allergic reactions. Often when people believe they are allergic to a food, they are actually experiencing symptoms of intolerance. Food intolerance may be caused by:
- Food that causes non-allergic reactions (such as gastritis due to too much caffeine)
- Uncomfortable reactions to food additives
- Food that’s too hot or cold
- The many effects of enzyme defects (such as lactose intolerance)
While food intolerance can cause real and sometimes severe discomfort, this is not the same as an immune-triggered allergic response.
Myth #5: Asthma, sneezing & runny nose are symptoms of an underlying allergy vs. Allergy Facts
Repeated sneezing and running nose are symptoms of rhinitis. Rhinitis can be allergic or non-allergic. Similarly, asthma can also be allergic or non-allergic.