Many people skip vaccinations or avoid certain foods because they believe they’ll suffer an allergic reaction.
But allergist David Stukus believes that many patients are fed misinformation about allergy triggers.
“Many early medical beliefs have been proven to be incorrect as research has advanced,” Stukus said. “Unfortunately, some of these beliefs are still on the internet, where an astonishing 72 percent of users turn for health information.”
At a presentation during the annual meeting of the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology (ACAAI), Stukus dispelled some commonly held beliefs about allergies.
“If you think you may have an allergy, you should see a board-certified allergist for proper evaluation, testing, diagnosis, and treatment,” he said. “Misdiagnosis and inappropriate treatment can be dangerous.”
1. ‘I Can’t Eat Bread Because I Have a Gluten Allergy’
This may seem like semantics, but most people who believe they have a gluten allergy more likely have gluten intolerance. It’s extremely rare to have a true allergy to wheat, Stukus said.
“Most allergic reactions to these foods stem from wheat,” he said. “Many people self-label as having gluten allergy and avoid gluten without any medical indication.”
Celiac disease, which is a true gluten allergy, only affects about one percent of the population.
2. Hypoallergenic Breeds Help With Cat or Dog Allergies
Hypoallergenic breeds received a lot of attention when the Obama family was searching for a pet because Malia, the eldest Obama daughter, is allergic. They now have Bo and Sunny, Portuguese Water Dogs. The breed is believed to be hypoallergenic, along with other breeds like poodles, Shih-Tzus, and Yorkies.
“Unfortunately, there is no such thing as a truly hypoallergenic dog or cat,” Stukus said. “Allergens are released in saliva, sebaceous glands, and perianal glands. It's not the fur people are allergic to."
But, he added, "It is true that some breeds are more bothersome for allergy sufferers than others.”
3. Artificial Dyes Cause Allergies & ADHD in Children
“There is no scientific evidence to support a link between exposure to artificial coloring and allergies,” Stukus said.
However, there’s controversy over studies that claim artificial coloring may cause behavioral changes in children, including contributing to the rise in attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).
In a review of available studies, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) found that only a certain subgroup of children with hyperactivity or other behavioral symptoms may experience “small to moderate behavioral changes which may not necessarily be characteristic of an ADHD syndrome.”
4. Children Younger Than One Year Shouldn’t Eat Highly Allergenic Foods
This rumor is actually counterproductive if your goal is to help your child avoid food allergies. New studies continue to offer evidence that the early introduction of highly allergenic foods, such as peanuts and eggs, may promote tolerance, Stukus said.
“For most children, there is no evidence to support avoidance of highly allergenic foods past four to six months of age,” he said.
5. Vaccines Can Trigger Egg Allergies
Many people with egg allergies believe they can’t get vaccines because chicken embryos are used to grow viruses for use in many common vaccines. “However, it's now safe to get the flu shot, which can help prevent serious illness,” Stukus said.
Another myth about vaccines is that they can cause autism in children. However, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said a review of all existing scientific evidence shows that there’s no reason to believe vaccines cause autism or other mental disorders.
6. Iodine Contrast Dye Can Worsen Shellfish Allergies
Iodine is used in contrast dyes during computed tomography (CT) scans because it provides better cross-sectional images of organs and blood vessels inside the body.
Because shellfish contain iodine, many doctors believe that people with shellfish allergies should avoid iodine contrast, but Stukus says this is another myth.
“This is false, and a shellfish allergy has nothing to do with the reaction,” Stukus said. “In fact, iodine is not and cannot be an allergen, as it found in the human body.”
While not an allergen per say, some people can be hypersensitive to iodine and may have symptoms of anaphylaxis as a result.