Questions People Ask About Allergies
How can I be allergic to house dust when I keep such a clean house?
House dust is found in the cleanest of homes. In a city, the average six-room house or apartment collects 40 to 50 pounds (18 to 23 kg) of dust every year. Though no amount of housecleaning can completely solve the problem, there are many “dust measures” that can help. For example, keep one room of the house, usually the bedroom, as dust free as possible to provide a haven for the allergy sufferer. Incidentally, feather pillows are dust collectors.
Various devices (electrostatic air filters, for example) are marketed to remove dust from the air, but their value is questionable. Probably of more importance is frequently to change your furnace and air-conditioner filters. To get rid of polluted indoor air, daily air out your house, even in winter.
Must we get rid of our pet, since we have a child who has been found to be allergic to it?
This is a common problem for the allergist in a pet-oriented society. Many people keep animals in the house, and they form close attachments to them.
Unfortunately, allergy to the dander and the hair of cats and dogs is a particularly severe problem for the allergic child. Generally there is no problem when the animal is kept outside. But when the pet is kept indoors, the dander soon permeates the house. Thus, a child may not be worse when he is holding the pet than when he is elsewhere in the house. It’s just that the pet is “everywhere,” or at least his dander is. In fact, it usually takes about six months after a pet is put out of the house for the dander to disappear completely.
Finally, the symptoms with this allergy are worse than those with other allergies, and the desensitization shots are more dangerous. Little wonder that in some allergy centers, if the parents of a pet-allergic child refuse to remove the pet from the house, the policy of the clinic is to report the parents to the child-abuse authorities.
How long will our ten-year-old child have to take shots for asthma, and will he ever outgrow it?
Allergy desensitization shots have been used with variable results since early in this century, but there is no sure way of knowing when to stop the shots. Most specialists stop the allergy shots after a few years to see if they are still needed.
People can develop allergies at any age, though most begin in childhood. Likewise, many allergies disappear as a person gets older. Childhood food allergies and asthma often go away as the child grows up. Hay fever may get less severe as a person approaches middle age.
How did I become allergic to mold?
The answer is unknown, but much has recently been learned about mold allergy. Molds belong to the fungus family and are present everywhere. Only a few species cause allergy. One type of allergy is caused by summer molds. These are kicked up when a person mows the lawn and may cause more allergy symptoms than the grass itself. Another kind of mold grows year-round in houses, particularly in damp environments, such as basements and bathrooms. Houseplants often harbor molds on their stems and leaves.
Could our child’s school-discipline problem be due to the food additives he gets in processed food?
This is perhaps the most controversial issue in connection with allergies today. Often the question of hyperactivity is raised. In the early 1970’s some researchers presented evidence that color additives and other chemicals in foods may be guilty. A California pediatric allergist, Dr. Benjamin Feingold, for example, developed the theory that salicylates, artificial food colorings, and artificial flavorings cause hyperactivity. He popularized a dietary regimen that is very restrictive and, if followed, needs careful planning to ensure adequate vitamins.
Although diets that restrict chemical food additives apparently can help a segment of hyperactive children, the American Council on Science and Health stated in 1982 that such additives “are not significant causes of hyperactivity in children.”
What vitamins can I take instead of medications to cure my allergies?
There is no known cure for allergies. Even desensitization shots are only given to relieve the symptoms of allergies until the body fights them off. Some allergists have promoted the use of vitamins, often in massive doses, for the treatment of allergies, though the value of this treatment in eliminating these diseases is questioned by many researchers.*
Skin tests showed that I am allergic to almost all foods; so, what can I eat?
Nearly every allergic patient nowadays has heard of skin tests in which the suspected food allergen is injected into the skin and the reaction is measured. A person may have severe skin reactions to foods that give him no trouble. Conversely, there have been instances in which a person was known to have severe allergy to shellfish, for example, and yet it did not show up clearly in skin tests. Thus, even though skin tests may show reactions to certain foods, if the person has noticed no unpleasant effects when eating them in the past, it is probably safe to continue.
Can my migraine headaches be due to allergies?
The swelling of the blood vessels in the head causes migraine headaches. Recent tests show that certain foods contain chemicals that can cause these headaches. Foods such as chocolate, bananas, nuts, wine, cheese, hot dogs, and the food seasoning monosodium glutamate are suspect. Many other things can cause migraines, but if other causes have been eliminated, the migraine sufferer might consider eliminating these foods from the diet. The problem of migraines appears to be technically a chemical one and not an allergy.
Why do my allergies seem to get better when I’m pregnant?
Most women’s allergies are reduced when they are pregnant, though occasionally a patient may get worse. It appears that a hormonal component is the cause of this. The precise reason is unknown and is another indication of how much is yet to be learned about the problem called allergy.
Awake! does not take a position in such areas of controversy and does not in any way offer medical advice. Our aim is simply to present facts and to leave it to the reader to make judgments and decisions.