Rash Reactions: 12 Myths and facts about allergies

Although common, many people still have a lot of misconceptions about allergy. Here are 12 common myths and facts associated with allergies

Man allergic to flowers | Allergies concept

Regardless of how healthy you think you are, you’re bound to experience allergies at some point in your life. Allergies are experienced by many people in different ways—from severe itching because of food allergies to ketosis rash from changing one’s diet.

Although common, a lot of people still have a lot of misconceptions about allergy. Having the wrong notion about allergies is one of the reasons why people often panic when they have an allergy, and will often feel stressed as they don’t have any idea how to manage allergies. If you usually feel the same way, don’t worry because this article can help.

12 myths and facts about allergies

Listed below are the most common myths and facts about allergies:

1. I am allergic to milk

Unless your doctor suggests otherwise, reaction to milk is nothing but lactose intolerance, wherein the enzyme lactase, needed to breakdown lactose, is either absent or present in very low amounts. Food intolerance does not involve the immune system and hence does not classify as an allergy. It occurs because our body cannot digest that particular food due to old age, trauma, stress, accident or some deficiency. Other common foods that could cause intolerance are chocolates, caffeine, monosodium glutamate [ajinomoto] and few additives in foods.

If you suspect that you’re allergic to milk, it’s best to consult a doctor first before making drastic changes to your diet. Milk and other types of dairy contain vitamins and minerals required by the body. Abruptly eliminating these sources may take a toll on your health.

2. My child is allergic to so many foods

In children, most often a suspected allergy is nothing more than sensitivity to foods, which they outgrow once their digestive systems mature. However, it is best to eliminate any possibility with doctor’s advice. Commonly, children are sensitive is seen with milk, soy, orange or any citrus juices, wheat, strawberries, chocolates, peanuts, shellfish and fish.

3. I am allergic to the iodine in shellfish

This is not true. Because in that case, you’ll be allergic to all foods that have iodine. If you believe you’re allergic to iodine, then you can no longer eat healthy foods that contain this mineral, such as eggs, dairy, and tuna.

4. Organic foods are non-allergenic

Organic foods are one of the latest to be added to the health foods list and many believe that these foods are non-allergenic. No guarantee, since it is seen that most allergenic foods are ‘natural’ like cow’s milk, eggs, wheat, lentils, soybean, fish and shellfish. And further, allergies are caused by proteins in food and not by chemicals.

5. Allergies go away with age

If you have a severe allergy as a child, there are chances that while moving to middle age, the severity of symptoms might change or there may be a decrease in the sensitivity. However, the propensity for the allergy will always be there. Some people even believe that consuming foods that you’re allergic to will eventually make you immune to that food. Unfortunately, doing this doesn’t always guarantee positive results.

If you want your allergies to go away or manage the symptoms associated with it, it’s always best if you consult a doctor. Changing your diet and lifestyle to manage your allergies without the approval of the doctor will only do more harm than good.

6. Breast feeding ensures your child never develops an allergy

Breast milk does have protective antibodies that defend the infant not just from developing allergies, but also from other infections. However, post-nursing and with growing years, the child does get exposed to the environment and may develop an allergy, like any other infection. According to noted allergologist Pramod Niphadkar, breast milk may not act as a lifelong shield. But he strongly recommends prolonged breastfeeding in children with a family history of allergy. This may help to delay the onset of allergy in the child with an allergic tendency.

For your children to have stronger immunity against allergies, make sure to feed them with breast milk when they’re young and introduce supplements to them as they age. As your children start to grow, expect that their bodies will also require more vitamins and minerals for them to remain strong against allergies.

7. Short-haired pets cause no allergies

An estimated 10 per cent of the population is allergic to pets—be it cats, dogs, rabbits or guinea pigs—and the allergen does not come from the pet’s fur. The source is the skin and to a lesser extent the saliva and urine. Although, in furry animals the chances of the dander—as it is called—becoming airborne are higher, short haired pets get no clean chit. They may spread less dander in the air, but it does stick to their skin. So if you are allergic, maybe you should stick to fish or turtles as pets. Here’s a pet allergy checklist you might find useful.

8. Allergies aren’t life threatening

It may be a rare occurrence, but in people with extreme sensitivity to a substance, the allergen could trigger an anaphylactic shock—a sudden fatal reaction. This causes low blood pressure, swelling up of the throat and tongue and constricts the airways, thus making it difficult to breathe.

9. Relocating cures allergies

The new place may not have the old allergens, but the move will not change your tendency towards developing an allergy.

10. Wearing gloves will protect me from poison ivy

The poison ivy plant, a relative of the cashew, is known to cause skin reactions in almost all. The allergen here is an oily resin, which attaches itself to clothing, pet fur and even garden tools and its potency is known to remain even after a year. So, wearing gloves or avoiding contact offers no protection in this case.

11. There is not much I can do about my allergy

A good allergy specialist will draw an allergy programme just for you, based on family history, food habits, lifestyle, reactions to medicines as well as the residing environment.

If you have a tendency to develop an allergy, Dr Niphadkar suggests a back-to-the-basics formula of less stress, simpler foods, moderate habits, well-ventilated homes and cleanliness.

And, I think we all, with or without allergic tendencies, should try and follow this formula for a healthy and happy life.

12. Allergies are a mind play

The mind may play a role. A person with allergy to a particular vegetable may feel some reaction at the sight of it, but emotions do not override the fact that tendency to develop allergy is purely environmental and genetic.

A version of this article was first published in the December 2009 issue of Complete Wellbeing (print edition).

— Last updated on

Magnifying lens over an exclamation markSpot an error in this article? A typo maybe? Or an incorrect source? Let us know!

Padma Sanzgiri
Dr Padma Sanzgiri, PhD in Clinical Biochemistry, is an accomplished health writer with articles featured in a number of publications including Reader's Digest, Femina and the Times of India.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here