13 Things People Believe About Allergies That Just Aren’t True

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Allergies are an issue for around half of Americans. Whether they’re food allergies or seasonal allergies, the truth is, they can be bad enough to have a severe impact on people’s lives.

It makes sense, then, that people are anxious for information – and anxious to believe there is more than one way to diagnose or treat those nasty allergies getting them down.

Not everything you hear is true, though, and these doctors are here to set the record straight.

13. There’s no way to prevent an allergy attack.

“Most people don’t realize that hair sprays and gels act like a sticky paste. Pollen floating near you will often get stuck in your hair, so you will end up being a pollen magnet bringing your personal pollen with you wherever you go.

That in turn, may make your allergy symptoms worse.”

Rob Danoff, DO

12. Moving to an extreme climate will nix allergy issues.


“For allergy sufferers, there simply is no safe haven. While desert regions have no maple trees or ragweed, they do have plenty of other plants that produce pollen, including sagebrush and cottonwood, ash, and olive trees.

Relocating to such a region may offer relief for a few months, but a fresh crop of allergies to local plants is likely to develop before long.”

—Morton Tavel, MD.

11. Kids will always outgrow allergies.

“Children are ten times more likely than adults to have food allergies but while many children may outgrow them, others will not. Some researchers believe that as a person’s gastrointestinal system develops, it gets better at blocking the absorption of components that trigger food allergies. Over time, children typically outgrow allergies to cow’s milk, eggs, wheat, and soybean products.

Allergies to peanuts, tree nuts, fish, and shellfish, however, are more likely to be lifelong. And some children will outgrow one allergy only to develop another.”

—Morton Tavel, MD.

10. Hay fever is an actual fever.


“Fevers do not occur due to seasonal allergies because symptoms are not caused by a virus or bacteria, rather by an allergen.

If you are presenting a low-grade fever, it’s likely that you have a cold caused by a virus.”

Rob Danoff, DO

9. People with shellfish allergies can’t get a CT scan.

“Radiologists and cardiologists often use iodinated contrast during CT scans and other procedures for better imaging. Since shellfish contain iodine, many physicians have linked a contrast reaction to a shellfish allergy.

However, this is false, and a shellfish allergy has nothing to do with the reaction. In fact, iodine is not and cannot be an allergen as it is found naturally in the human body.”

Bryan Martin, MD

8. They can’t eat ice cream because of an allergy.


“When adults react adversely to milk—usually in the form of cramps, gas, and diarrhea—it’s often mistaken for an allergic reaction. In reality it’s usually a condition known as lactose intolerance, an inherited trait caused by the body’s lack of lactase, an enzyme needed to digest milk products.

True milk allergy is only common among infants and is usually outgrown in adulthood.”

—Morton Tavel, MD.

7. They’re allergic to penicillin.

“Adverse reactions to antibiotics are very common, but true allergic reactions are rare. Approximately 10 percent of people in general say they are allergic to penicillin, but fewer than 10 percent of those will have a positive skin test or any symptoms if challenged.

Labeling someone allergic to this antibiotic makes them more likely to receive less effective, more toxic, and costlier antibiotic alternatives. Thus efforts should be made to clear patients from retaining this label, if falsely applied.”

—Morton Tavel, MD

6. Babies can’t have allergies.


“Allergy tests are valid at any age. Younger kids are less likely to have allergies, so the tests are more often negative, but they are valid.”

Jay Portnoy, MD, Division Director, Allergy/Asthma/Immunology at Children’s Mercy Kansas City

5. Their allergy isn’t deadly.

“Although it rarely happens, allergies can kill. Some people have such an extreme sensitivity to a particular substance that the allergen can trigger an episode known as anaphylactic shocka sudden, potentially fatal reaction that lowers blood pressure, swells the tongue, throat, or airways, making it difficult to breathe. Such a reaction requires immediate medical attention. Anaphylactic shock is most often triggered by a food or drug, but it can also result from an insect sting or injections of various medical agents.

People with a history of severe allergic reactions should always carry a pre-loaded syringe of epinephrine (like an Epi-pen), which can be administered in an emergency.”

—Morton Tavel, MD

4. That mold allergies are common.


“Mold is everywhere and can cause real problems in susceptible persons, but it rarely causes allergies unless ingested in large quantities. Most health problems attributed to mold exposure are exaggerated, with no scientific basis or supportive evidence.

You don’t need fancy air purifiers or other detoxification equipment.”

—Morton Tavel, MD

3. Natural or organic foods can’t cause reactions.

“Limiting your diet to ‘all-natural’ or organic food is no guarantee that you’ll avoid allergies. In fact, some of the most allergenic foods are ‘natural’ unprocessed foods including cow’s milk, eggs, peanuts, wheat, soybeans, fish, shellfish, and tree nuts.

Combined, these foods account for up to 90 percent of all ingested allergic reactions. Allergies are caused not by chemicals related to growing the food, but by proteins in the food itself.”

—Morton Tavel, MD.

2. That scratch tests aren’t reliable.

“Skin testing is reliable at any age. A positive result—a red, raised area called a wheal—means you reacted to a substance in a potentially allergic way. Such a positive result means the symptoms you are having are likely due to exposure to that substance. In general, the stronger the response, the greater the chance of allergy to that given substance. It is possible to get a false positive or false negative.

In general, allergy skin tests are most reliable for diagnosing allergies to airborne substances, such as pollen, pet dander, and dust mites. Skin testing may help diagnose food allergies but because food allergies can be complex, you may need additional tests or procedures.”

—Morton Tavel, MD

1. Seasonal and food allergies aren’t related.

“There is a condition called oral allergy syndrome (OAS) that may affect between 50 to 75 percent of seasonal allergy sufferers, where airborne allergens may sensitize you to those in food. For example, the proteins in certain fruits such as peaches and apples are similar to the proteins from Birch tree pollen so you may have a reaction to both the tree pollen and eating raw peaches and apples, although the symptoms differ.

Those with OAS may experience a tingling or itchy throat, or swollen lips. In some more severe cases, some may experience wheezing and have trouble breathing. If you notice any of these symptoms when eating certain fruits and vegetables, please speak with your physician.”

Rob Danoff, DO

I’m really surprised by some of these!

Did you already know all of this, or was some news to you? How do you manage your allergies? Let’s chat about it in the comments!