Allergy Myths vs Facts

Allergies are surprisingly common, and they vary from relatively minor to life threatening.

Myth 1: You can outgrow allergies.

Fact: Whether an allergy diminishes over time often depends on the allergen.  Although most children ‘outgrow’ allergies to milk, egg, soy, and wheat, allergies to peanut, tree nuts, fish, and shellfish are often lifelong.  While some childhood allergies improve, others persist into adulthood.  Early diagnosis and proper management are key.

Myth 2: You can build immunity by exposing yourself to allergens.

Fact: This can be dangerous!  Increasing exposure can worsen reactions and even lead to anaphylaxis.  Anaphylaxis is a severe, life-threatening allergic reaction.  It can happen seconds or minutes after you’ve been exposed to something you’re allergic to.  In anaphylaxis, the immune system releases a flood of chemicals that can cause the body to go into shock.  During this event, a large amount of histamine is released into the body, causing an inflammatory response.  Symptoms can include difficulty breathing, wheezing, stomach pain and cramps, diarrhoea, anxiety, swelling of the feet, hands, lips, eyes, and sometimes the genitals, and loss of consciousness.  Consult your doctor before any allergen exposure attempt.

Myth 3: Food allergies and intolerances are the same.

Fact: Food allergies involve the immune system, while intolerances do not.  Allergies can cause severe even life-threatening reactions, while intolerances typically cause digestive discomfort.

Myth 4: Allergies only develop in children.

Fact: You can definitely develop allergies as an adult.  Although research has shown that allergic sensitization, or the body’s reaction to allergens, is higher in younger people, research also found that nearly half of food-allergic adults developed their allergies in adulthood.

Myth 5: Allergies only bother you in the spring.

Fact: While spring pollen gets the blame often, allergies can strike any time of year.  Dust mites, mould, spores, pet dander, and even food can trigger reactions year-round.

Myth 6: Antihistamines make you drowsy.

Fact: While some older antihistamines could cause drowsiness, most modern options do not.  Talk to your doctor about finding the right medication for you.

Myth 7: Sugar makes allergies worse.

Fact: There’s no scientific evidence to link sugar to worsening allergies.  Focus on identifying and avoiding your specific triggers.

Myth 8: Air purifiers are just hype.

Fact: Effective air purifiers with HEPA filters can remove allergens from your home, improving your symptoms.  Choose the right size and filter type for your needs.

Myth 9: Natural remedies are always better than medication.

Fact: Not all natural remedies are effective or safe.  Consult your doctor before trying any alternative treatments, as they may interfere with medications or worsen symptoms.

Myth 10: Allergies are all in your head.

Fact: Allergies are real, physical reactions caused by the immune system.  They can significantly impact your quality of life and deserve proper medical attention.  Thankfully, for many people, allergies are uncomfortable and inconvenient but not dangerous.  However, for some individuals, an allergic reaction can culminate in anaphylaxis.  Prevention is key when you have allergies.  Whether you have seasonal, persistent, or food allergies, you should always avoid exposure to anything that triggers an allergic reaction.  There is no cure for allergies, but there are several treatment options that can reduce symptoms.