Before you pop your allergy meds this spring, read on.
A run-of-the-mill pollen allergy may not seem like a big deal, and it might seem like too much hassle to hit up your doc (or find an allergist) for treatment. Maybe you plan to just power through the telltale symptoms, such as your itchy eyes and constantly running nose, until spring moves into summer and you start to naturally feel better.
This is just one of the many myths plaguing our understanding of allergies. ”As an allergist for many years, I can tell you, allergies can cause a decrease in quality of life,” says Clifford Bassett, MD, an allergist at NYU Langone Health.
A lack of understanding of allergies could prevent you from taking control over your life and feeling your best. Knowledge is power, right? Here are seven stubborn myths about allergies that need to be cleared up, according to Dr. Bassett.
MYTH: Allergies are harmless.
Not treating or managing allergies can lead to a different complications, especially if your allergies are more on the moderate to severe end of the spectrum, according to Dr. Bassett. Here are a handful of ways that uncontrolled allergies can negatively affect your life:
Mouth and breathing issues
Dealing with one of these allergy side effects can most certainly reduce your overall quality of life, not to mention if you have to manage multiple complications.
MYTH: Moving may improve your seasonal allergies.
If you live in a windy place that’s constantly whipping around ragweed pollen, it might be tempting to ditch your town and plant roots someplace new. But moving won’t give your allergies a clean slate. “If you have the right allergic predisposition to have seasonal allergies, when you move to another place you may have new sensitivities that develop over time,” says Dr. Bassett.
Instead of moving, you’ll likely have better luck working with an allergist to come up with an action plan to manage your current allergies. They say running away from your problems never solves anything, right?
MYTH: Allergies can be cured.
Allergies are managed, not cured. “They can be managed successfully, and we have longer-term approaches, including immunotherapy,” says Dr. Bassett. However, you will need to actively continue treating allergies. For example, you can manage symptoms by reducing allergens in your home and knowing the best and worst weather for seasonal allergies.
MYTH: All allergy medications make you drowsy.
It’s true that the older antihistamines are linked to symptoms of drowsiness, but newer treatments can protect against allergies without zonking you out. “The ones we typically recommend are what we call second- and third-generation antihistamines,” says Dr. Bassett. These do not typically induce a drowsy, sedated effect.
MYTH: Allergies are only seasonal.
You may tend to notice your allergy symptoms at the same time every year—around Daylight Saving Time, for example—but that doesn’t mean you’re allergic to only tree pollen. You may have year-round allergies to things like dust mites or pet dander, and the influx of airborne allergens from pollen may simply worsen your symptoms. Think of it this way: “The glass is already half-full, and the seasonal allergies cause a flooding or escalation of the symptoms,” says Dr. Bassett. “That’s really a double-whammy.”
MYTH: Local honey can help treat your allergies.
The idea is that local honey contains pollen—the same pollen from the plants and trees in your neighborhood—and ingesting this honey will expose you to that pollen and give you an immunity against the pollen allergy, in a similar vein to how some vaccines and allergy shots work.
However, the evidence of local honey’s effectiveness is lacking, according to the American College of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology. Most of the pollen in honey contains flower pollen, which is less likely to cause allergy symptoms than other kinds of pollen. In contrast, allergy shots contain regulated amounts of tree, grass, and weed pollen at increasing levels, which is effective at reducing symptoms for allergy sufferers. Here’s more information about why honey doesn’t help treat seasonal allergies.
MYTH: Allergies occur for the first time in children.
Making it to your thirties or forties allergy-free may feel like you’re in the clear, but allergies can crop up at any time. For example, the ACAAI reports that 45 percent of food allergies appear during adulthood. “I see many adults for the first time in their forties, fifties, sixties, and beyond,” says Dr. Bassett. “They’re suffering from seasonal allergies.”
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-: It's a myth that allergies are harmless.
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As an allergist for many years, I can tell you
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allergies can cause decreased quality of life.
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Allergies can cause complications.
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Nasal symptoms can lead to sinus symptoms.
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In many cases, when sinus drainage is not working correctly,
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it may lead to things such as sinus infection.
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It can be associated with ear infections,
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mouth issues, being a mouth breather,
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having orthodontic issues.
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It can be a trigger for people with allergic asthma.
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People have poor sleep quality 'cause they have
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constantly nasal obstructed membranes at night.
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It's a myth moving to another area or city
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can improve your allergies.
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You may have some temporary benefit if you're avoiding
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certain allergies that you already have.
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If you have the right allergic predisposition
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to have seasonal allergies, and you move to another place,
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you may have new sensitivities that develop over time.
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I found it to be more successful,
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rather than moving to a different city,
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is controlling your allergies, work with an allergist,
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and have a successful allergy action plan
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that actually provides relief.
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It's a myth that allergies can be simply cured.
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They can be managed successfully
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and we have longer term approaches,
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including immunotherapy that provide long term relief
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in most people that undergo such treatments.
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It's a myth that allergy medications
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automatically cause drowsiness or sleepiness.
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Some of the older antihistamines,
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or first generation ones, caused drowsiness.
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The ones we typically recommend are what we call
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second and third generation antihistamines.
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Most or many medications we recommend
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for our allergy sufferers do not cause
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significant sedation or drowsiness.
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It's a myth that allergies are only seasonal.
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A lot of individuals that come in,
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they believe they have seasonal allergies,
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happens every year during the same time,
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but when I test them, sometimes we find out
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they also have year-round or indoor allergies
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so the glass is already half full
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and the seasonal allergies cause a flooding or escalation
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of symptoms and that's really a double whammy.
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It's a myth for the most part,
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that honey will cure your seasonal allergies.
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Most researchers find that there's really
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no clinical benefit in studies where they looked
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at local honey, farm fresh honey, versus placebo.
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It's an absolute myth that allergies only affect kids.
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In my practice, I see so many adults coming in
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for the very first time that suffer from allergies.
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I see many adults for the first time in their 40s, 50s, 60s,
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and beyond, they're suffering from seasonal allergies.
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With proper evaluation, examination, and testing,
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we can pinpoint what their triggers are
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and try and remedy and manage them much more successfully.
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Almost half of food allergies in adults appear in adulthood. Arlington Heights, IL: American College of Allergy, Asthma, & Immunology. (Accessed on March 22, 2018 at https://acaai.org/news/almost-half-food-allergies-adults-appear-adulthood.)
Common seasonal allergy triggers. Arlington Heights, IL: American College of Allergy, Asthma, & Immunology. (Accessed on March 22, 2018 at https://acaai.org/allergies/seasonal-allergies.)
Will honey relieve my seasonal allergies? Arlington Heights, IL: American College of Allergy, Asthma, & Immunology. (Accessed on March 22, 2018 at https://acaai.org/resources/connect/ask-allergist/will-honey-relieve-my-seasonal-allergies.)