Allergy Myths and Misconceptions

Reviewed by: HU Medical Review Board

If you have allergies, you may have to manage other people’s misunderstandings about your condition. Other people may underestimate the seriousness of your symptoms or fail to appreciate the precautions you must take to avoid your triggers.

Knowing the facts can help you educate yourself and others, and stop the spread of harmful misinformation. Here are some common myths people have about allergies.

Myth: You can separate your epinephrine auto-injector twin packs and keep 1 at home and 1 at school or work.

Epinephrine auto-injectors (commonly called Epi-Pens) come in 2-packs. Doctors strongly recommend you keep twin packs together and to always have 2 available. That is because during a severe reaction, you may need more than 1 dose of epinephrine. In fact, 1 study found nearly 1 in 5 children with a severe food allergy reaction needed a second dose of epinephrine to stop anaphylaxis.1

Myth: You can use an epinephrine auto-injector past its expiration date.

An expired epinephrine auto-injector may not provide the amount of drug needed to stop anaphylaxis. This is why doctors recommend that you get a new epinephrine auto-injector when your current one expires. However, the high costs of these pens means many people cannot afford to replace their medicine every year. A 2020 study found epinephrine auto-injectors still contain 90 percent epinephrine concentration up to 2 years after the expiration date.2

If an out-of-date pen is your only option, you should use it only if it is not discolored or contains substances floating in the liquid. You can also talk to your doctor about cost-saving programs that may cover some or all of the costs of new pens.3

Myth: You can treat any allergic reaction with Benadryl.

This is false. Benadryl is an antihistamine used to treat mild allergy symptoms like sneezing, runny nose, and itching. An antihistamine like Benadryl is not going to stop a serious reaction like anaphylaxis. It is not a substitute for epinephrine.4

Myth: Vaccines cause allergies.

Vaccinations do not increase a person’s chances of developing allergies. Vaccines do not increase your chances of developing new allergies if you already have an allergy. This includes people with a family history of allergies and people with asthma and eczema.5

Myth: You never outgrow an allergy.

Some people outgrow their allergies. Children may outgrow their allergies to milk and eggs. Adults may find they are less sensitive to pollen as they age. Or, someone will move to a different climate and have fewer allergy symptoms.6

Myth: Avoiding your triggers is the only way to treat an allergy.

You do not have to suffer through allergy season if you have hay fever. Yes, avoiding the outdoors during certain times of the year may help you feel more comfortable. But you can also use antihistamines, decongestants, and nasal sprays to treat your symptoms. You may also choose to get allergy shots (immunotherapy) to lower how sensitive you are to your triggers.7

Myth: Some dog breeds are hypoallergenic.

Hypoallergenic means less likely to cause an allergic reaction. There is no such thing as a hypoallergenic dog. However, some dogs may cause fewer allergy symptoms. The issue is that a dog’s fur is not what causes most allergic reactions. Most people react to a protein found in their pet’s saliva and urine. That protein is found in lower and higher amounts in certain breeds.8

If you have allergies but have never had allergy testing, you might not be allergic to your dog at all. Pet hair can trap mold, pollen, or dust. When the dog comes into your home or near you carrying these allergens, it may trigger symptoms.

Myth: I cannot get certain vaccines because of an egg allergy.

Yes, some vaccines include a small amount of egg protein. It is still safe to have an MMR (measles/mumps, rubella) vaccine and the flu vaccine, even with a serious egg allergy. This has been well-documented for several decades now.9

There are some other non-routine vaccines that contain higher levels of egg and might cause a reaction in those who are allergic to eggs. If you are concerned about a reaction, talk with your doctor about staying in the office for some time after the shot so they can watch for any reactions.9

Myth: Food allergies are not a big deal. Eating a little bit will not hurt you.

Food allergy is serious and reactions can be life-threatening. Every 3 minutes, a food allergy reaction sends someone to the emergency room.10

The confusion lies in the difference between food intolerance, like lactose intolerance, and food allergy. An intolerance results in mild stomach upset or maybe a mild headache. With a food allergy, the immune system mistakes a food as a danger and sets off an allergic reaction. These reactions can include hives, swelling of the throat and mouth, and more.10

Myth: Do not feed your baby certain foods to prevent food allergies.

For years, people thought shielding babies from allergenic foods would lower their risk of developing food allergies. This idea also applied to babies in the womb. But research has proven otherwise. In fact, eating foods that trigger allergies early on may protect against some food allergies. Delaying foods can actually increase your baby’s risk of developing allergies.11,12

Myth: Only kids have food allergies.

Both children and adults can have food allergies. You can develop a food allergy at any time in your life. You can even have an allergic reaction to a food you ate before with no trouble.13

Remember, if you have any questions about something you have heard about allergies, talk with your allergist.

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