Allergy myths prompt many people to do things unnecessarily out of unfounded fears of a reaction — from shunning gluten products to skipping the flu shot — and many falsehoods are even believed by doctors, according to a new study.
In research reported by the LiveScience Website, David Stukus, M.D. — a pediatric allergist at Nationwide Children's Hospital in Columbus — identified seven common, widely believed allergy myths and the facts behind the fictions.
"These misperceptions are quite common in the general public — as well as among primary care physicians," said Dr. Stukus, who presented his findings this week at a meeting of the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology in Baltimore.
He found there was lack of scientific evidence for many ideas about allergies on the Internet. Among the myths Dr. Stukus debunks:
Allergic to artificial dyes: People falsely attribute many symptoms — including hives, asthma, and even attention deficit hyperactivity disorder — to being allergic to the artificial coloring used in foods. But there is no scientific evidence that artificial dyes cause these symptoms, he said.
Egg allergy and flu shots: People who are allergic to eggs may skip the seasonal flu vaccine, which is manufactured using chicken eggs. But vaccines are safe for people with egg allergies, even though they may contain very low amounts of egg protein. In addition, a new egg-free flu vaccine is available this year.
Seafood allergies and CT scans: There's a misconception that people with seafood allergies are at increased risk for negative reactions to the iodine used during CT scans for better imaging. But such fears are unfounded, Dr. Stukus notes. "Iodine cannot cause allergy, it's present in our bodies and in table salt," Stukus told LiveScience. "People allergic to shellfish are allergic to a specific protein," that isn't present in the radiocontrast agents.
Allergenic foods and babies: It is commonly thought that nuts and fish shouldn't be given to children until 12 months of age, based on guidelines issued in 2000 by the American Academy of Pediatrics. But in 2008, the organization changed its guidelines due to lack of evidence, and said children can eat such foods starting at age 6 months.
"Allergic" to gluten? Gluten "allergies" don't exist. Some people are allergic to another wheat protein in bread, but people can have gluten intolerance, or celiac disease, an autoimmune condition — not an allergy — in which eating some foods causes inflammation and various symptoms.
Hypoallergenic pets: There is no such thing as a truly hypoallergenic dog or cat, Dr. Stukus said. All pets have some allergens in their saliva, but allergy sufferers can tolerate some breeds better than others.
Blood tests: At-home blood tests do not reveal what people are allergic to, although they might reveal sensitization to a certain allergen, such as milk.