5 most common allergy myths

Dietary, gluten and wheat allergy warning

We live in the so-called information age. We also might call it the “misinformation age.” We Google everything; but as you’ve probably learned, just because you found it on the Internet doesn’t make it true. That’s especially important to understand when searching the Web for medical information. David Stukus, M.D., an allergy doctor with Nationwide Children’s Hospital in Columbus, Ohio, and associate professor of pediatrics at Ohio State University, is debunking what he calls the five most common allergy myths.

Dr. Stukus said he was compelled to take a stand because so many people were coming into his office fiercely defending their wrongly held beliefs. He put together this list of allergy myths:

Myth 1: If you’re allergic to cats or dogs, it’s best to stick with hypoallergenic breeds.

I guess I’m as guilty as a lot of other people on this one. I thought poodles, in particular, were hypoallergenic. According to Dr. Stukus, there is no such thing as a hypoallergenic pet, not even expensive, specially bred cats and dogs, such as “labradoodles.” He said all pets secrete minor allergens, but some are worse than others.

Myth 2: No bread for me; I’m allergic to gluten!

Dr. Stukus said that technically, there is no such thing as a “gluten allergy.” Scientifically, only three disorders can be attributed to gluten: celiac disease, wheat allergies and non-celiac gluten sensitivity. He said marketing strategy is largely responsible for the current buzz about gluten allergies.

Myth 3: Black mold can cause some truly terrifying diseases.

This is a prime example of how hysteria is created on the Internet. If you Google “black mold,” you will find stories about all kinds of frightening consequences, such as seizures, fibromyalgia, bipolar disorder and cancer. Quite simply, Dr. Stukus said, there is no scientific proof linking black mold to any of these diseases.

Myth 4: If you have an egg allergy, you should never get a flu shot.

As we enter flu season, this is a hotly debated topic. Dr. Stukus said unless you have a history of severe allergic reactions (anaphylaxis) after eating eggs, a flu shot probably won’t hurt you. He recommends talking with your allergist first.

Myth 5: For little ones, the rules are these: No milk until age 1, no eggs until age 2, and no nuts until age 3.

Apparently this was considered true some years ago, but not anymore. In fact, the opposite is closer to the truth. Dr. Stukus said in his report that once children are older than 6 months, there is no evidence to support the idea that you should not give your child these possibly allergenic foods. “In the allergy community, the stance has sort of reversed 180 degrees,” he said. “We used to think avoidance reduced allergies; now, we think early introduction leads to tolerance.” 

So what’s the moral to this story? Don’t believe everything you read on the Internet. Use only reliable, well-known sites, and if you’re still confused, talk with your physician to get all the facts.

–Jackie Hays