Allergy myths may keep your pediatrician guessing
Fact or fiction? Eating organic foods means your child is less likely to experience food allergies.
Answer: Fiction. Some of the most common foods that cause allergic reactions are so-called natural or unprocessed foods such as eggs, peanuts, wheat and soybeans.
With so much information available on the Internet, it’s sometimes hard for parents to tell fact from fiction when it comes to allergies in their children. Don’t feel bad though. New research reveals that even some doctors can’t tell the difference when it comes to treating allergies.
In a study on treating allergies that surveyed 409 doctors, either in internal medicine or pediatrics, researchers found that certain myths about allergies have a long shelf life. The survey included six questions on allergy treatment, and three additional questions since pediatricians treat children’s allergies. The study was presented at the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology (ACAAI) Annual Scientific Meeting in November.
“We asked what the best first treatment was for a patient experiencing vomiting and hives after eating a known food allergen,” said lead study author and allergist Dr. Kara Wada in a statement. “Only fifty percent of internal medicine physicians knew it was epinephrine. And eighty-five percent of internal medicine physicians thought the flu vaccine shouldn’t be given to egg-allergic patients. It’s now known that it’s safe for those with egg allergies to get the flu shot,” explained Dr. Wada, a fellow with The Ohio State University’s Wexner Medical Center in Columbus.
The study also revealed how doctors responded to these other allergy myths:
- The most common cause of food allergy in children younger than 4 years old is both milk and eggs. Only 27 percent of pediatric physicians surveyed correctly identified this. Another 34 percent identified strawberries, and 13 percent thought it was artificial food coloring.
- It’s not necessary to ask about allergies to iodine, shellfish and artificial dyes before a CT scan or other imaging procedures that use a contrast dye with iodine for better pictures. Both groups surveyed thought it was necessary. Although shellfish do contain iodine, a shellfish allergy has nothing to do with a reaction to iodine. The study reports that iodine can’t be an allergen, however, since it’s found in the human body.
- Skin prick testing for food or inhaled allergens has no age limit, although this test is rarely conducted on infants younger than 6 months old. Most of the pediatricians surveyed thought that this test is not accurate or reliable until 3 years of age.
A parent’s best resource then would be to seek out a specialist. “If you suspect you or your child has an allergy, it’s important to see a board certified allergist,” says senior study author Dr. David Stukus in a statement.
“Allergists are first board certified in pediatrics and/or internal medicine, and then have an additional two years of training in the specialty of allergy/immunology. It’s training that makes them the best qualified to treat allergic conditions of all kinds,” added Dr. Stukus, a pediatrician at Nationwide Children’s Hospital in Columbus, Ohio.
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