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Eight Myths and Facts About Allergies

The World Health Organization estimates that 50 percent of the population will suffer from at least one allergy by 2050. Relaxnews spoke with Christine Rolland, director of the French association Asthme & Allergies, to help sort fact from fiction when it comes to allergies.

More people suffer from allergies in spring than in winter.

FALSE. People suffer from allergies all year long. You can be allergic to dust mites, animal hair, mold, foods or drugs, or have allergic asthma or skin reactions.

More people have allergies in the countryside than in urban areas.

FALSE. Allergies are more common in urban settings, notably due to a convergence of factors. One of those factors is air pollution, which also aggravates pollen allergies.

Allergies are increasingly common due to environmental factors.

TRUE. One theory suggests that reduced biodiversity in our environment could cause changes to the body’s intestinal and respiratory flora. This could, in turn, reduce tolerance, which ultimately defines an allergy. But there are other factors at play in the development of allergies, such as cigarette smoke (active and passive smoking), other types of indoor and outdoor atmospheric pollution, and changing dietary factors.

A skin-prick test can identify what you’re allergic to.

TRUE. Together with detailed questions about when allergic symptoms arise, skin-prick tests and, if necessary, an “allergen-specific IgE” blood test can help identify the allergen or allergens responsible. These tests can be carried out from an early age.

Indoor air is less polluted than outdoor air.

FALSE. The indoor environment is five to 10 times more polluted than outdoors. In enclosed spaces, several allergens can provoke allergic reactions (dust mites, animal hair, mold, etc.). These are accompanied by the “domestic pollutants” used every day in indoor spaces (smoking, cleaning products, air fresheners etc.). These pollutants can make the occupants of the space more vulnerable and increase the risk of developing allergy symptoms.

Older people can’t develop allergies.

FALSE. Contrary to popular belief, allergies can also develop in older people, at age 60 or even older. Unfortunately, their symptoms are often attributed to causes other than allergies, delaying treatment and the effective management of symptoms.

Allergies don’t have serious consequences if left untreated.

FALSE. What can seem like “regular” allergic rhinitis, for example (sneezing, stuffy nose, runny nose, itchy or stinging eyes), can develop into potentially serious bronchial breathing problems. In 30% of cases, untreated allergic rhinitis develops into asthma.

Antihistamine treatments allow allergy sufferes to lead normal lives.

TRUE AND FALSE. Treatment with antihistamines can bring effective relief from allergy symptoms, but this isn’t always sufficient. Depending on the type and severity of the allergy, allergen immunotherapy (desensitization) may be necessary.