1. Myth: Allergies are a fad, and they’re not dangerous
Fact: While 50-90% of self-reported food allergies are not allergies, severe food allergies do exist. They can have a sudden onset, and be fatal in minutes. Prior reactions don’t predict future reactions. The only way to prevent reactions in those with a history of anaphylactic allergies is strict and complete avoidance of the allergen. Other types of reactions, such as celiac disease (an immune disorder triggered by gluten), require allergen avoidance, but are not immediately life-threatening like allergies can be.
2. Myth: Benadryl can be helpful for anaphylaxis
Fact: The only treatment useful for the management of anaphylaxis is intramuscular epinephrine (e.g., Epi-pen). All other treatments, such as antihistamines like Benadryl, inhalers, and steroids are secondary treatments and do not replace the need for the immediate administration of epinephrine. There is no established role for the administration of Benadryl during what is known to be an anaphylactic reactions.
3. Myth: I was exposed to an allergen, but I’m fine. Maybe I’m not going to have a reaction.
Fact: Maybe, but maybe not. Anaphylactic reactions do not always appear immediately, and can be delayed by minutes or even hours. Reactions can manifest in different ways.
4. Myth: Food allergy is the same as food intolerance.
Fact: A food intolerance is non-allergic by definition. Lactose intolerance is an example, where the reaction to lactose does not involve the immune system. Intolerances may be unpleasant but they are not fatal.
5. Myth: “May contain” warning labels just provide legal protection for companies. Those foods are fine for those with anaphylactic allergies.
Fact: May contain labels should be taken literally. A recent study of products labelled “may contain peanuts” contained detectable levels of peanuts 8.6% of the time.
6. Myth: I diagnosed my child’s allergy so they don’t eat “X” anymore.
Fact: Many more people believe they have food allergies than actually have them. Unnecessary dietary restrictions can have nutritional consequences, so professional evaluation is warranted if food allergy is suspected.