9 Allergy Myths Debunked


Allergy Myths Debunked

"Although symptomatic medications may help some patients with seasonal allergies, allergen immunotherapy or allergy shots are the only treatment that changes an allergic patient's immune sensitivity to the triggering allergen," Emory's Fineman said. "Allergen immunotherapy can help patients build a tolerance to the allergens and provide long-term relief, even after the injections are discontinued."

4. Myth: Flowers are a leading allergy irritant.

Stop blaming the flowers. They're pretty to look at and, experts say, it's probably not your flowerbed that is causing your runny nose and itchy eyes.

Allergies are primarily caused by wind-pollinated plants; flowers are generally reproduced by insects. Flower pollen is much larger than pollen that comes from trees. Tree pollen can be spread through the air, which can then be breathed in by humans and cause those miserable reactions.

"This notion comes up because flowers have pollen that is highly visible," said Li. "But that pollen does not become airborne and there are not high concentrations of it in the air, like the pollens from trees, grasses and ragweed."

5. Myth: Eat the local honey and you won't get seasonal allergies.

The idea makes sense. Honey is made by bees. Bees are carriers of pollen, so bits of pollen may get into the honey. Eat the local honey and you may build up a tolerance to those allergens, as a whole. But experts say this is wishful thinking.

"Honeybees pollinate larger flowers," said Dr. Michael Daines, an allergist and immunologist at the University of Arizona School of Medicine in Tucson. "These flowers produce large sticky grains of pollen that adhere to the bee. Large sticky grains of pollen don't get in the air we breathe, so they don't cause allergies. So even if local honey had enough pollen in it to desensitize your allergies, it would be the wrong kind of pollen."

"Most importantly, this has been studied in clinical trials that show that there is no effect of unpasteurized locally made honey on allergies," Daines added.

6. Myth: If you didn't have allergies as a child, you're in the clear as an adult.

Sorry folks, but even if you've lived an allergy-free life so far, it is indeed possible for you to develop allergic reactions in adulthood.

"Years ago, people thought that allergy was a childhood phenomenon," Fineman said. "We now know the immunologic mechanism and realize that people with allergies have a genetic predisposition to develop an allergy; this can occur at any time even adults can develop allergy symptoms."

New exposures may trigger allergic reactions to allergens. For example, if a person never had a pet before, a new dog or cat may trigger an unknown allergy, or a new location may trigger allergies that are specific to that region.

Sensitivity to allergens can also change with time, which might provoke more or less of an allergic reaction in the body.

7. Myth: Clean your house and your allergic reactions will disappear.

This would make sense: If someone is allergic to mold and dust, removing those things in the home would help to reduce the exposure and, in turn, allergy symptoms.

But doctors say that might not be true.

"There's a hypothesis gaining traction that younger children exposed to dirty environments might be less likely to develop allergies," Mayo's Li said.

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