post-title Allergies: Fact or Fiction 2014-03-25 15:11:43 yes no Posted by

Allergies: Fact or Fiction

by Phil Rancitelli, M.D. There are many myths about allergies that have been around for years.  Many lead to unnecessary treatments and costly interventions.  Some things you hear about allergies might sound farfetched but are actually true.  Let’s try to separate fact from fiction. Hypoallergenic dogs and cats Unfortunately, there isn’t a breed of dog or cat […]

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by Phil Rancitelli, M.D.

There are many myths about allergies that have been around for years.  Many lead to unnecessary treatments and costly interventions.  Some things you hear about allergies might sound farfetched but are actually true.  Let’s try to separate fact from fiction.

PhillipRancitelli

Hypoallergenic dogs and cats

Unfortunately, there isn’t a breed of dog or cat that is 100% hypoallergenic.  Pet allergens that cause symptoms are found mostly in saliva and urine, so even a small pet that doesn’t shed can secrete enough allergen to drive an allergy sufferer crazy.  Some people react less or not at all to certain breeds of dogs, but reactivity is almost impossible to predict and studies have not revealed a universally tolerable breed.

 

Shellfish allergy and iodine

Shellfish allergy is due to proteins, not iodine.  There is no relationship between shellfish allergy and iodine allergy/radio contrast material allergy.  Unfortunately, some patients are still questioned about shellfish allergy before radiology procedures.

 

Airborne food reactions

Actually, this can occur.  Most severe food reactions occur after ingestion, but some occur after inhalation of cooked fumes/vapor.  This is primarily an issue with seafood.  Keep in mind, it’ very unlikely that simply being in the presence of a food will result in a severe allergic reaction.

 

Consuming local honey to treat allergies

There isn’t good data to support this, and the science behind it doesn’t really make sense.  Honey does contain traces of pollen but it’s mostly from flowers that aren’t wind pollinated.  Airborne pollen (grass, trees, and weeds) is much more likely to cause allergies.  There is probably a small amount of local airborne pollen in honey, but not enough to impact your immune system and make you feel better.

 

Exposure to a family pet can result in desensitization

Aside from anecdotal reports, there isn’t much support for this theory.  More likely, symptoms will worsen with exposure once sensitization has occurred.  Desensitization is a technique that has been used by allergists for over one hundred years (one example is “allergy shots” for hay fever).  Many factors influence the success of desensitization, including route of exposure (injected, inhaled, consumed, etc.), dose, and length of treatment.  An allergist/immunologist certified by the American Board of Allergy and Immunology is uniquely trained to take all of these factors into consideration when recommending and prescribing a desensitization protocol.

 

Allergy to food dyes

Many people attribute various symptoms to food dyes.  This is difficult to prove because accurate allergy tests for dyes aren’t available.  Theoretically, any food can cause an allergy, but most food allergies are caused by only a handful of foods:  cow’s milk, egg, soy, wheat, nuts and seafood.  That being said, food dye allergy is possible, but probably extremely rare.

Celiac disease, gluten intolerance, gluten allergy, and wheat allergy

These terms are often used interchangeably, but they’re clearly different.  Celiac disease is primarily a gastrointestinal disorder caused by an autoimmune response to ingested gluten.  Gluten intolerance is any non-immunologic adverse reaction to gluten.  Unfortunately, there isn’t an accurate test to detect gluten intolerance.  There’s debate about whether or not gluten allergy (IgE-mediated immune responses to gluten) even exists.  If it does, it’s extremely rare.  Wheat allergy is one of the most common food allergies in children and can be diagnosed with a simple skin test performed by an allergist/immunologist.  Wheat allergy is not due to gluten.

The take home point is to think critically when you read or hear something about allergies.  Without question, your best resource to advise you about allergic and immunological disorders is a board certified allergist.

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