Five Common Allergy Myths

Gluten allergies don’t really exist, and wheat protein is actually responsible for most true allergic reactions.

By: Dr. Katherine A. Gonzaga, Allergy/Immunology

Allergies can affect people at any age. Unfortunately, there are a lot of common myths and misconceptions about allergies due to a great deal of false information in the media and on the Internet. Some of these misconceptions can be damaging to your health if vaccinations are skipped and/or extreme dietary avoidances are taken. Take a look at the common allergy myths listed below to separate fact from fiction.

1. Egg Allergy and the Flu Vaccine: People who are allergic to eggs may think they need to skip the seasonal flu vaccine because the vaccine is often grown in hen eggs. However, recent research has shown that the flu vaccine does not contain a significant amount of egg protein, and it is very safe to vaccinate people with egg allergy. This research has been consistent in over 20 well conducted clinical trials since 2009.  The Centers for Disease Control still recommends that egg allergic patients seek guidance from their allergist, and it’s not uncommon for patients with egg allergy to be monitored for 30 minutes after vaccination.

2. Gluten Allergy: Many people self-label as having gluten allergy and avoid gluten without any medical indication. However, “gluten allergies” don’t really exist. It’s actually wheat protein that is responsible for most true allergic reactions. This allergy is very different from Celiac Disease (an autoimmune response to gluten) and gluten intolerance so talk to your doctor about your symptoms before making drastic diet changes. 

3. Shellfish Allergy and Contrast Media: There’s a common misconception that people with shellfish allergies are at an increased risk for allergic reactions to the iodine that is sometimes used as a radiocontrast agent during CT scans for better imaging. This notion is false. People with shellfish allergy react to a specific protein found in shellfish. This protein is not present in radiocontrast agents. Therefore, if you have a shellfish allergy, you can most likely safely get radiocontrast medical procedures, unless you have a separate allergy to them.

4. Highly Allergic Foods Should Be Avoided Until Kids are 12 Months or Older: It is commonly thought that highly allergic foods like nuts and fish shouldn’t be given to children until after 12 months of age. These recommendations were made to parents based on guidelines issued in 2000 by the American Academy of Pediatrics. However, the organization changed its guidelines in 2008 due to lack of evidence. It now states children can eat these foods as early as 6 months, as long as they pose no choking hazard. New evidence emerging shows that early introduction of highly allergenic foods may even promote tolerance. However, it’s important to note that the new guidelines may not apply to children in families with a strong history of food allergies. These children should be referred to an allergist for food allergy testing and guidance prior to introduction.

5. Hypoallergenic Dogs and Cats: Sorry, pet allergy sufferers – there is no such thing as a truly hypoallergenic dog or cat. This is largely because pet allergies are due to a protein in pet skin (dander), saliva or urine. It’s typically not the fur of the pet that triggers allergies.  Therefore, even hairless breeds have some allergen exposure that can lead to symptoms. However, each animal is different and some breeds are less bothersome for allergy sufferers than others. See an allergist to get pet allergy testing and begin treatment before you get a pet to help ease symptoms.

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4 Responses to Five Common Allergy Myths

  1. Tom Puchner MD says:

    Nice list Dr. Gonzaga (from one MCW Allergy grad to another)

  2. Lisa Becker says:

    Just a question about iodine allergies. Can you be allergic to contrast iodine and not sea food?

  3. Lee Kaltenberg says:

    I enjoyed the article and them interesting and very knowledge, we are told to many things and believe what we read on the Internet before doing a real research. So it is important to make sure before we jump the gun make sure we have the knowledge needed to make the determination

  4. Thomas J Ansfield MD says:

    There are some important “myths” in this article. My one argument: shellfish allergies. My wife has developed an allergy to contrast media and she has been pre-medicated with corticosteroids for subsequent studies. After a contrast CT scan some 10 years ago, my wife developed a significant shellfish allergy – shellfish was one of her favorite foods. We visited friends a few months later, who took us to a lobster dinner. My wife developed moderate anaphylactic symptoms, including generalized pruritus, mild wheezing and urticaria. A few weeks later, she was visiting friends, who did not realize that the “fish sauce” contained shell fish, and my wife developed generalized pruritus. The same thing happened with inadvertent exposure to shrimp.

    Perhaps shellfish allergy does not affect SOME people who get medical contrast studies, but I’m not convinced the opposite is true.

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