Allergies: Myth vs Fact

Myth: Moving to a new climate will help with allergies.

Fact: Changing climates can affect your reaction to allergy-triggering substances called allergens — but only to a limited extent. Some Eastern and Midwestern plants are rare out West, but grass and ragweed pollens are found nearly everywhere. Also, once you move, you may simply start reacting to different allergens.

Myth: Flowers commonly trigger allergies.

Fact: While some florists with prolonged exposure to flowers can have allergy symptoms, very few people suffer allergic reactions from a bouquet of beautiful blossoms. The culprit is usually the pollen produced by trees, grasses, and weeds (and yes, occasionally flowers) that’s picked up by breezes and carried through the air.

Myth: There is no pollen at the beach.

Fact: Compared to other regions, beaches can be nice vacation spots for allergy sufferers since beaches generally have lower pollen counts. However, grasses are common near beaches, and ragweed pollen can be found as far as 400 miles out to sea. Also, even a short drive or walk away from the sand will expose you to the region’s pollen-emitting plant life.

Myth: Pollen counts can predict bad days.

Fact: Pollen counts determine how many grains of pollen were measured in a specific amount of air over a specific amount of time. You can use the daily pollen count as a tool for minimizing allergen exposure. One source of pollen counts is the National Allergy Bureau (www.aaaai.org/nab). It provides accurate data from 85 U.S. counting stations, plus two each in Canada and Argentina.

Myth: Local honey can reduce allergies.

Fact: The theory that eating local honey helps is mainly anecdotal and hasn’t been sufficiently verified by research. Believers hope that the pollen content in honey will inoculate them against allergic rhinitis. But few controlled studies have addressed this theory. Besides, unlike carefully controlled allergy shots, pollens found in honey may not include the ones that affect you.

Myth: You will outgrow your allergies.

Fact: Some children do outgrow certain allergies. But very few outgrow hay fever. A hospital in Sweden tracked 82 patients with allergic rhinitis. The patients reported that 99% still suffered from allergic rhinitis 12 years later, although 39% reported improvement.

Myth: Rain washes away pollen.

Fact: The best days for allergy sufferers to go outdoors are those immediately following heavy rains. Pollen levels can be affected by temperature, time of day, humidity, and rain. Pollen counts run lowest on chilly, soggy days. They tend to run highest between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m., especially on hot, dry, and windy days. If you want to go outdoors, try to wait until the late afternoon.

Myth: Mold allergies only strike indoors.

Fact: Mold spores are fungi and can be found almost anywhere. They grow on soil, decaying leaves, and rotting wood — especially in damp weather. You’re most likely to have an allergic reaction to mold in the summer. Most outdoor molds aren’t active during the winter. When spring comes around, molds grow on plants that died in the cold weather.

Myth: Hay fever comes from hay.

Fact: Hay fever isn’t a fever, and it doesn’t come from hay. Hay fever or allergic rhinitis is caused by tree, grass, and weed pollens as well as mold spores, some of which grow well in rural areas. If you have allergies, you may be more likely to suffer a reaction in a rural area. But some studies have shown that children who grow up on farms are less likely to develop allergies.

Myth: If you dont have allergies as a child, you wont have allergies as an adult.

Fact: Allergies often begin in childhood, but you can develop allergies as an adult, too. Some occur after you change your environment and encounter new allergens. Some adults redevelop symptoms they had during childhood.

Myth: Regular injections can relieve allergies.

Fact: While there are no full cures for allergies, allergy shots — also known as immunotherapy — are the closest thing. If you have bad allergies or reactions to many different allergens, you might benefit from immunotherapy. Regular injections may dramatically reduce your reaction to certain allergens when you stick to the regimen recommended by your doctor.

June 9, 2011 8:00 pm Published by