Mark Twain once said, “A lie can travel half way around the world while the truth is putting on its shoes.” While this is true of gossip, it’s also true of many of the common myths many people believe about allergies.
As many of our patients know, it’s bad enough to suffer through allergy symptoms without also having to sort through conflicting advice and ambiguous “best” practices. This is why it’s important to have your facts straight about your allergies.
To help our patients recognize allergy fact from fiction, we’ve rounded up some of the most commonly believed allergy myths along with the facts that disprove them. Here are the top seven allergy myths we most often see:
Myth: Allergies only cause symptoms during “allergy season.”
Truth: In actuality, many people experience allergy symptoms all year. With allergies, your immune system responds to harmless environmental elements (e.g. pollen, mold, dust) as if they were harmful substances. This response results in common allergy symptoms, such as coughing, sneezing, itching, redness, runny nose, and nasal congestion. People that suffer from year-round allergies are usually responding to indoor allergens like pet dander, mold, dust mites, cockroaches, and other triggers that are present in the environment all year.
Myth: If you didn’t have allergies as a child, you won’t have them now.
Truth: Anyone can develop an allergy at any time. Some adults may even develop a food allergy to a food they had previously eaten without any problems. There is still a lot that the experts don’t know about allergies, but what we do know is that the number of people with allergic rhinitis (hay fever) is growing around the world. Adult-onset allergies usually occur during your twenties, thirties, and forties rather than in later life.
Myth: Local honey can alleviate or cure seasonal allergies.
Truth: Eating local honey has no effect on your allergy symptoms. People mistakenly believe that the pollen in bee honey helps the body to build immunity to pollen, thereby ending seasonal allergies. In fact, the pollen in bee honey comes from flowers, not grasses, weeds, or trees. Why does this matter? Flower pollen is heavy and falls to the ground. You’re more likely to come into contact with windswept pollens, which are more likely to cause your allergy symptoms.
Myth: Moving to a new area can cure your seasonal allergies.
Truth: Some New Yorkers might be tempted to pack up and head west to get away from allergy season, but in reality moving will not help ease your symptoms. Pollen spreads over very large geographic areas. In fact, pollen from the ragweed plant (a flowering plant whose pollen causes up to 50% of all cases of pollen-related allergic rhinitis in North America) has been found hundreds of miles out at sea and even two miles into the atmosphere! People allergic to common grass pollens will likely find they have symptoms almost everywhere in the United States because these pollens are cross-reactive.
Myth: You should only take allergy medicine when you experience symptoms.
Truth: You don’t have to wait until you’re feeling terrible to start your allergy medication. The effects of an allergic response can last for weeks in some cases. Use your allergy medications on a consistent basis to control your allergy symptoms before they even start.
Myth: You are allergic to your pet’s fur.
Truth: Before you take drastic measures and shave off all of Fluffy’s fur, know this: it’s not the fur that’s causing your allergy symptoms. Rather, the allergen is a protein found in your pet’s skin, saliva, and urine. You can regularly bathe your pet to remove allergens from their fur and skin, but be careful not to dry the skin out.
Myth: Flowers trigger allergies.
Truth: As we mentioned, flower pollen is heavy and falls to the ground. Your allergy symptoms might be irritated or aggravated by the perfume given off by flowers, but when it comes to reactions, the more likely culprits are pollens from grasses, trees, and weeds.
Even patients that have been dealing with allergies for many years can still hold misconceptions about their symptoms. We hope this exercise in fact vs. fiction shed a little more light on the truth behind common allergy myths.
If you suspect you have allergies or have questions about other resources available to people with allergies, give us a call. We can be reached at 212-729-1283 or send us an email at email@example.com.