In an age where online access is ubiquitous and millions are uninsured or carry policies with ridiculously high deductibles, turning to the Internet for medical advice can save time and money, especially when it comes to non-life-threatening conditions.  But without a visit to the doctor, it’s easy to confuse matters and assume a health problem that doesn’t even exist.  One of the largest areas where doctors encounter this trend is allergies.  So before you let Google diagnose your gluten allergy, here are five common myths you’ll want to keep in mind.

Breaking Bad (Allergy Myths, That Is)

1 – I’m allergic to gluten

Gluten gets blamed for a staggering array of medical problems, but if there’s one thing you never want to suggest to your allergy specialist, it’s that you’re allergic to gluten because you’re not.  Can gluten cause problems?  Absolutely―but they’re very specific, and not terribly common.  Celiac disease, non-celiac gluten sensitivity, and an actual wheat allergy are disorders science blames on the protein.  But you’re not allergic to gluten, no matter what the Internet might tell you.

2 – I can’t get a flu shot because I’m allergic to eggs

While chicken egg embryos are used to grow the virus for the flu vaccine, and thus can include minuscule amounts of egg protein in the final product, there’s no cause for concern for those who suffer from egg allergies.  Unless the danger of egg exposure is life-threatening, there’s no reason to avoid getting vaccinated.  Even if you have the severest form of egg allergy, there’s a non-egg alternative called FluBlok you can request.  Getting over your fear of needle poking, unfortunately, is something medical science still can’t help with.

3 – Hypoallergenic pets are perfect for those with pet-related allergies

There’s no such thing as a hypoallergenic pet, no matter what the president might think.  All pets, regardless of hair length, still secrete allergens.  The dander you’re allergic to doesn’t come from the animal’s skin or fur, but rather its saliva, urine, and sweat.  The good news is you probably aren’t allergic to all pet dander.  The bad news is you need to investigate each breed through personal contact before you find one that doesn’t set your sinuses into hyper-mucus overdrive.

4 – Black mold causes cancer/seizures/fibromyalgia/bipolar disorder/etc…

No, it doesn’t.  That’s not to say you want to spread it on your toast, but there’s literally no scientific link between black mold and the host of maladies for which people assign it blame.  The worst black mold will do is produce asthma-like symptoms and an aggressively runny nose mixed with the occasional sneeze.  Assuming you’re allergic to mold in the first place.

5 – Introducing children to potential allergens early in life is bad

Back in 2000, the thinking was: no milk until age one, no eggs until age two, and no nuts until age three.  But in the intervening years, doctors have decided that’s not a good idea because early exposure seems to lead to increased tolerance.  If allergen tolerance begins building up early, as doctors now think, then avoiding potential allergens until the child is older may actively contribute to a serious allergy that will follow her into adulthood.

Allergens and allergic reactions, even mild ones, are no laughing matter.  But if you suspect you or a loved one has a condition brought on by exposure to a potential allergen, don’t rely on the Internet to diagnose your condition for you.  Making life-altering decisions without consulting your doctor beforehand can cause more problems than it solves in the long run.  At the very least, remember that reading it about someone else on the Internet doesn’t make it true for you.

 

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