Let's Set The Record Straight About These Food Allergy Myths

Girl getting a shot in her arm

MYTH: Lactose intolerance and a milk allergy are the same thing

FACT: Lactose intolerance is when a person cannot easily digest lactose, a natural sugar found in milk or dairy products. The symptoms of this condition often include the build up of gas and often subsequent bowel upset but is not considered an allergy. A milk allergy is an overreaction of the body’s immune system to a specific food protein, in this case, the protein found in cow's milk.

Symptoms can vary from person to person, with varying degrees of severity.

MYTH: For those allergic to peanuts, airborne exposure, like smelling peanuts, can cause an anaphylactic reaction

FACT: Studies show that airborne exposures cannot affect the body on a systemic level, and therefore cannot cause an anaphylactic response. In order for someone with a peanut allergy to have a life-threatening reaction, the protein must be ingested. The peanut protein must at some point come in contact with the mouth and be ingested, either by choice or by accidental exposure to the lips and mouth.

MYTH: If you have an egg allergy, you are not a candidate for a flu shot

FACT: Influenza vaccines often contain a small amount of egg protein. Despite this, studies show that flu vaccines can be safely given to those with egg allergies. There are, however, vaccines made without egg proteins, and this option can be discussed with your physician.

MYTH: Avoiding allergenic foods during pregnancy and breastfeeding will lower your baby's risk for allergies

FACT: The American Academy of Pediatrics states there is no evidence to support that avoiding the top allergenic foods during pregnancy will lower the risk for the unborn child to develop a food allergy.

During pregnancy, a normal, healthy diet is recommended to best meet the needs of the unborn child.

MYTH: Blood tests and skin allergy testing are the most effective way to diagnose a food allergy

FACT: Both the blood and skin tests serve to identify foods that a person may have a sensitivity towards. These results show that an individual produces IgE antibodies to food proteins but does not confirm a true allergy. Oral food challenges are the most accurate way to diagnose a food allergy. The gold standard for food allergy diagnosis is a double-blind placebo-controlled food challenge.

MYTH: If I think I have a food allergy, I should just avoid this food

FACT: This is not the best way to handle a food you might be potentially allergic too. In fact, most often the second exposure is worse than the first, and it can be a potentially life-threatening reaction. In that case, you will not be prepared on how to handle this situation. Additionally, you might not realize when this potentially allergic food is used as an ingredient in another food or recipe.

If you think you might have a food allergy, it is best to talk to your doctor immediately.

MYTH: Once a child is diagnosed with a food allergy, it cannot be outgrown

FACT: Studies show that kids can actually outgrow food allergies. While many children don’t outgrow all food allergies, there are a significant number who do. Statistics show that 20 percent of peanut allergies and 9 percent of tree nut allergies are outgrown. Wheat allergies are often outgrown by age 3 and soy allergies by age 10. For these reasons, it is important to have your kids retested on a regular basis.

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