Allergy Myths Revealed

Experts dispel misconceptions about allergy causes and remedies.

ByABC News
September 19, 2008, 10:56 PM

April 30, 2008 — -- The buds and blossoms of spring are longed for, colorful additions to the gray, muted palette of a seemingly endless winter -- at least that appears to be the perspective of many Americans.

But for a growing number in the United States who suffer from seasonal allergies, the spring bloom and resulting airborne storm of yellow-green pollen flecks can be the bane of their existence.

It's estimated that nearly 17 million visits to the doctor's office each year are due to allergic rhinitis, more commonly known as seasonal allergies.

Other types of allergies are also on the rise.

More than 12 million Americans -- or roughly one in 25 -- has a food allergy, including 3 million children, or roughly one in 17 children younger than 3, reports the Food Allergy and Anaphylaxis Network.

The ABC News OnCall+ Allergy section compiled dozens of questions and answers from the nation's top allergy experts on topics including seasonal allergies, food allergies, bug stings and drug reactions.

During the research process, several debatable explanations and remedies emerged. Below you'll find five of the most interesting allergy-related declarations and an analysis of whether they're grounded in reality or just plain bunk.

Fact or Myth? You can't develop allergies as an adult.

Answer: Myth

While many allergies start in childhood, even adults can become allergic to things they weren't allergic to before, according to Dr. Rohit Katial, director of the Weinberg Clinical Research Unit of National Jewish Medical and Research Center.

"There's a feeling that allergies only exist in children and then persist into adulthood. But we frequently see patients that have done well most of their lives and then as an adult they do develop allergies," said Katial, a participant in the ABC News OnCall+ Allergy section.

An allergy could be triggered in an adult because of a newly introduced allergen to which there was no prior exposure. For example, moving from the West Coast to the East Coast might bring on an allergy to ragweed, which thrives in the Northeast. Or, if you did not have a pet growing up, a new dog or cat could trigger an allergy.

Alternatively, some people simply become more sensitive to common allergens, such as pollen, dust mites and molds as they grow older.

Adults who come in with the symptoms will undergo similar testing to that done with potentially allergic children.

"If an adult comes in with symptoms that are typical for seasonal allergies, they should be evaluated to see what they're sensitive to, and again, appropriately treated depending on what the allergen is and given advice regarding environmental precautions and the appropriate medications," said Katial. "Clearly, one can develop both allergies and asthma as an adult and it doesn't have to be just in children," he said.