Allergy facts and myths

There are many misconceptions about seasonal allergies
There are many misconceptions about seasonal allergies 

There are many misconceptions about Seasonal Allergies.

"Short-haired pets don't cause allergies."

Neither an animal's fur, nor its length, is the culprit in allergies. The real culprit is a protein found in the animal's saliva or skin. Cats may cause more allergy problems than dogs simply because they tend to lick their fur a lot, spreading the protein onto their coats. Rodents and rabbits may also be allergenic. If you are allergic to furry pets, consider adopting one of these furless friends: fish, hermit crabs, iguanas or snakes.

"Hay fever is caused by hay."

The popular term 'hayfever' is considered a misnomer because the condition is neither caused by hay, nor is it a fever. The term was coined in 1828 by a British physician when he noticed that his allergy symptoms worsened during the British haying season. Today, the term is used to describe blocked nose, coughing, runny nose, sneezing, and other symptoms caused by any plants that pollinate or moulds that produce spores - usually in the late spring, summer or autumn.

Some individuals develop allergies even though neither parent has had a diagnosis of allergy.

"Allergies are psychosomatic."

Allergies may affect your nose, but that doesn't mean they're 'all in your head'. An allergy is a real medical condition involving your immune system's reaction to a foreign substance. Your symptoms may cause you to feel embarrassed or discouraged, but emotions don't cause allergies. (Also, you can't pass your allergies on to a friend, because they are not contagious.)

"Pollen from flowers is a leading cause of allergies."

Ironically, some of the most feared plants - the brightly flowering varieties - are the least likely to trigger allergic symptoms. Pollen from roses and many other fragrant, colourful flowers tends to be heavy, waxy and sticky, making them less likely to become airborne. These pollens are not spread by wind. Instead insects transport pollen from flower to flower. Allergies to these plants are very uncommon (even among florists and gardeners who are exposed to them frequently).


"You can outgrow your allergies."

Most people grow into allergy, not out of it. Although some people can have fewer symptoms from certain substances simply by avoiding them, it is nearly impossible to avoid exposure to certain pollens, moulds and dust. Repeated exposure to these aeroallergens can cause an allergic individual to continue to suffer from allergies his or her entire life.

"Frequent exposure to pollen can help you become desensitised to it."

Regularly scheduled, repeated exposure to small amounts of an allergen - as with allergy shots - can lead to desensitisation. However, infrequent and erratic exposure does not lead to protection - instead, it increases the likelihood that you will become sensitised to the allergen. Irregular exposure to allergens can lead to the production of immunoglobulin E (IgE) antibodies. These antibodies, if bound to effector cells called mast cells upon interaction with an allergen, cause an allergic reaction. With allergy shots (called allergy immunotherapy), exposure to the allergen is closely regulated and given on a scheduled basis, thereby decreasing allergic reactivity.

"Because I am allergic to something, my kids will be too."

We do not know that genetics play a part. If both parents suffer from allergies there is a 50-70% chance of their children suffering from allergies. The risk diminishes if only one parent suffers but is still higher than if neither parent has ever had allergies.