The Truth About Allergies: Myth vs. Fact

ATsai Editor
  • Myth: Allergies have no benefits.

    Fact: Research suggests that allergies do have a protective quality.

    A recent study published in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute has found evidence that allergies may provide protection from brain tumors called gliomas. Researchers looked at 594 blood samples of glioma patients and compared them to blood samples of people who have never developed a glioma. They measured two types of IgE proteins in each sample, which are proteins responsible for allergic reactions. A statistical analysis showed that people who tested positive for the allergy-related antibodies had close to a 50 percent reduced risk of developing a glioma 20 years later.

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    Women who tested positive for the IgE connected with allergens such as dust, pollen, mold and pets also had a 50 percent lower risk of developing a serious and common type of glioma called glioblastoma. The same direct association with IgE was not found in men, however. Still, those who tested positive for those specific antibodies, in addition to other antibodies, did have a 20 percent lower risk of glioblastoma compared to the men who tested negative for all antibodies.


    Researchers suggest that the allergy-associated antibodies could boost the immune system, which protects against tumors.


    Another theory, published in the journal Nature, suggests that seasonal allergies could be a sign that the immune system is protecting you from environmental toxins that would damage your health more than allergens. The researchers argue that our type 2 immunity, which activates T-cells and antibodies to attack an environmental irritant, evolved over thousands of years to protect us from four types of environmental dangers; irritants, harmful chemicals, parasites and venom from animals.


    The lead researcher hypothesizes that allergic hypersensitivity developed so that we could survey the environment for harmful substances, and therefore avoid areas with dangerous toxins, based on our bodies’ reactions.


    Myth: Allergies are a nuisance, but they are harmless.

    Fact: Some severe allergies can cause anaphylaxis.

    Seasonal allergies can be annoying. Runny nose, watery eyes, coughing and constant sneezing can certainly take their toll. But not all allergies are just a nuisance. Food allergies, for instance, can cause a severe and life-threatening reaction called anaphylaxis. Medications, insect stings, and latex can also cause anaphylaxis, but food allergy is the leading cause.


    If a person is having an anaphylactic reaction, several symptoms can occur. First, within minutes or as long as several hours after contact with the allergen, the person will have a skin reaction of redness, itching or hives, or swollen lips, plus either difficulty breathing or a drop in blood pressure. GI symptoms can also occur, such as vomiting, diarrhea or cramping. You should go to an emergency room as soon as possible if these symptoms occur.




    Myth: Asthma is not caused by allergies.

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    Fact: A certain type, called allergic asthma, is triggered by allergens.

    Allergic asthma is triggered by inhaling allergens, such as dust mites, pet dander, pollen, mold or other allergens, and causes airway obstruction and inflammation that can be treated with medication. Most of the symptoms are the same as non-allergic asthma, including coughing, wheezing, shortness of breath and chest tightness. Allergic asthma is the most common type of asthma, affecting more than 50 percent of the 20 million people with asthma.


    Myth: A childhood pet will increase a child’s chance of developing asthma.

    Fact: Studies show that having a dog actually reduces the risk of children developing asthma.

    While pet dander can trigger allergic asthma, there is research to suggest that growing up with a dog can actually protect you from developing asthma in the first place. Researchers from the University of California at San Francisco found that dust present in households with dogs protects against the infection associated with respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), which has been linked to asthma in children.


    Researchers looked at three categories of mice. One group had been fed dust from homes with dogs before being infected with RSV, the second group was infected with RSV without exposure to dust and the third was the control group. They found that mice that had been fed the dust were protected against the respiratory infection. Researchers speculate that the microbes in the dust associated with dogs may colonize the gastrointestinal tract and affect the immune response, which protects against the virus.



    Christian Nordqvist. (2012, April 27). "Seasonal Allergies May Be A Good Thing." Medical News Today. Retrieved from


    n.p. (2012, August 6). "Risk Of Brain Tumors May Be Lower In Those With Allergies." Medical News Today. Retrieved from


    National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. (2010 December 6). “What is Anaphylaxis?” Retrieved from


    Asthma and Allergy Foundation. “Allergic Asthma.” Retrieved from


    n.p. (2012, June 21). "Asthma Risk In Kids Lowered By Having Pets." Medical News Today. Retrieved from







Published On: August 14, 2012