Allergies: things you need to know

By Emily Grenfell

It may seem early in the year to be talking about allergies, but if you subscribe to the ‘local honey’ cure then this might be the time you start self-administering everyday with your morning coffee. Allergies are all around us, and here at the babylon office we decided to investigate some of the myths surrounding these common afflictions.

1. Does local honey cure hayfever?

No. Tasty as it is, the idea that we can build up our immunity by taking in small amounts of localised pollen is false. Most hayfever reactions are the result of pollen blowing in the wind, and most of this is released by non-flowering trees, weeds, and grasses, not the pollen in flowers carried by bees.



2. If I am allergic to animals, can I have a hypoallergenic pet?

There is no such thing as a hypoallergenic pet. An estimated 10 to 15 percent of us have allergies to household pets, and the allergen is a specific protein produced primarily in the animal’s skin, urine, and saliva. Contrary to popular belief people are not allergic to animal fur.

You can limit the effects of pet allergies by washing your pets regularly, or getting a breed with short hair. If an animal has less hair to shed it will send less skin cells into the air.



3. Are dietary intolerances and allergies the same?

No. This is a common misconception especially for people who claim to be allergic to gluten. True gluten allergy (Coeliac disease) is very serious and for Coeliac sufferers eating gluten results in damage to the lining of the small intestine. Non-Coeliac gluten sensitivity (for which there is no objective sign, symptom, or test), and immediate hypersensitivity to bread and pasta is due to wheat itself, not gluten.  



4. Will childhood allergies continue into adulthood?

Children are far more likely to have food allergies than adults. Some researchers believe that as the gastrointestinal tract develops it gets better at not absorbing the components that trigger food related sensitivity. Typically children outgrow allergies to cow’s milk, eggs, wheat, and soy, whereas allergies to peanuts, fish, and shellfish can be lifelong. If in any doubt, always see a doctor.



5. Do organic foods contain less allergens?

Allergies are triggered by proteins within the food, not by chemicals related to growing the food. The most ‘allergenic’ foods are also ‘natural’ unprocessed foods like cow’s milk, egg, peanuts, soybeans, fish, shellfish, and tree nuts.



6. Do allergies cause eczema?

Allergy is a contributing factor in only about one third of eczema cases, and while elimination of allergens can help in the management of the condition, until a cure is discovered it’s a condition for life.  



7. If you’ve reached adulthood and not had any allergies, are you safe?

Allergies can develop at any age. Allergies do have a genetic component, but your environment can determine when those genes might be expressed. There’s also nowhere to hide, some people think that moving to a dryer climate will cure their hay fever, but this is false. Pollens exist in all climates at all humidities and if you rid yourself of one by changing area you will most likely develop sensitivity to another in a few months.



8. Can you grow out of allergies?

A lot of people believe in the seven year cycle, which suggests that every seven years our body sheds its allergies or develops new ones. There is no clinical evidence to support this, and scientific study puts this particular myth down to people liking patterns. If you’re thirty-five now you have only five data points on your graph and that’s not enough to support any solid conclusions.



The best treatment for an allergy depends on the allergen causing the reaction. In some cases simply avoiding the substance that causes the reaction is the best course. You can use medication to control the symptoms, and if your reaction is severe (anaphylaxis) then you may be prescribed an adrenaline injector. For severe cases of rhinitis, immunotherapy may be recommended by a specialist, which can either take the form of a series of injections or prescribed drops to be placed under the tongue on certain days. For cases involving rhinitis and hayfever, immunotherapy is effective almost 80% of the time.


If you struggle with allergies you can book an appointment with one of our doctors now and get the advice you need to face allergy season fortified.