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Allergies can have severe consequences. Understanding these commonly heard myths can help defend you and your loved ones from allergies. Experts from Raffles explain the fallacy in these myths. Get it right today!
Pets, whether furry or non-furry, short haired or long haired, all have the propensity to cause allergies in those who are susceptible. The culprit in pet allergies is the protein that is found on the hair or in the saliva of pets such as cats and dogs.
Cats often cause more allergy problems than dogs because they tend to lick their fur a lot, spreading saliva protein onto their coats. These proteins can trigger an allergic reaction within minutes if breathed in by the allergy-sufferer.
The symptoms may include itchy eyes, sneezing, asthma and skin rashes.
Dr Chris Foo, Specialist in Dermatology, Raffles Skin Centre
Hay fever is a misnomer on two counts. It is neither caused by hay nor is there associated fever. It is caused by allergy to pollens dispersed by the seasonal flowering plants usually in spring time giving rise to nasal congestion, blocked and running nose, breathlessness, general feeling of unwell and possibly secondary sinusitis. This 'flowering' season coincides with the 'haying' season, hence the “guilty by association” factor comes into play.
Dr Aw Chong Yin, Specialist in ENT Surgery, Raffles ENT Centre
Food allergy is a difficult problem because it is actually a group of diseases. Public perception of food allergy is very different from doctors'. Too many diseases are being blamed on food allergy and too many people, especially children are labelled as being “food allergic". Food allergy is perceived to be present in 20 per cent of adults when the true figure is closer to one to two per cent.
Through questionnaire surveys, prevalence of food allergy has been reported to range from 5 per cent in Singapore to 12 per cent in Japan. However, when doctor's assessment is included in an Israel prevalence study, the prevalence was only 1.7 per cent. Therefore, food allergy is not as common as people think it is.
A/P Wong Soon Tee, Specialist in Dermatology, Raffles Skin Centre.
The short answer would be ‘maybe’. It all depends on the problems you think the food is giving you. The classic immediate type of allergic reactions includes symptoms that can develop within seconds or minutes, for e.g. angioedema, urticaria, hives, and anaphylaxis. Some of these symptoms are severe and can be life threatening, requiring immediate medical attention. If you suspect that there is a food group that causes you these symptoms, you should consult your doctor who can suggest some tests to confirm this.
It is important to remember that there are other medical conditions that can also make you feel unwell. It is therefore important that you consult your family physician for him to find out the cause of the problem. It may involve blood tests to rule out conditions like diabetes, anaemia, thyroid disease. A food allergy test may also be required.
Dr Melvyn Wong, Senior Family Physician, Raffles Medical
Limiting your diet to organic food is no guarantee that you will avoid triggering food allergies. In fact, some of the most allergenic foods are "natural", unprocessed foods: cow's milk, eggs, peanuts, wheat, soybeans, fish and shellfish, and nuts. These foods, together, account for close to 90 per cent of all food allergic reactions. The proteins in the food, and not the chemicals related to growing the food, are the cause of allergies.
Ms Nehal Kamdar, Senior Dietitian, Raffles Internal Medicine Centre
Although stress can influence, heighten or worsen allergies, the causal relationship is not so straight forward. More research needs to unravel the exact mechanisms as many people do not develop allergies with stress. Researchers are still trying to pin-point stress-related factors which may influence our immune system and also clarify protective factors. We can then fine-tune lifestyle modification to help allergy sufferers and hopefully prevent children and vulnerable adults from developing certain allergies later on.
Meanwhile, it's best to take good care of your physical and mental health, manage stress, and avoid potential allergens and addictive substances (e.g. smoking, drugs, and excessive alcohol) and high-risk behaviours. You should also see your doctor early for help in any of these areas.
Dr Arthur Lee, Specialist in Psychiatry, Raffles Counselling Centre
Anti-allergy medications work best when taken according to the treatment plan your doctor has given you. This is especially true for prescribed nasal steroid sprays and anti-histamines, which may become ineffective if only taken on “as needed” basis. Usually nasal steroid sprays work best after two to three weeks of continuous therapy, and you may need to continue this for an extended period for maximal benefit. The dose of anti-histamine tablets and nasal sprays may be tailed down gradually once symptoms become more manageable. Hence it is not advisable to take these medicines only when needed, but to follow the directions given by your doctor regarding therapeutic doses and frequency.
Dr Rupert See, Senior Physician, Raffles Medical
Allergy shots also commonly known as immunotherapy injections have been very popular in the United States for the last 50 years. Immunotherapy is used to decrease the body's response to allergens such as dust mite, tree and grass pollens. There is enough evidence to support the fact that it is effective. However, up till recently, it could only be administered via injections on a regular basis. Technology has since advanced such that allergen immunotherapy can now be effectively given via placing drops under the tongue on a regular basis without the need for injections. This is called sublingual immunotherapy. Instead of calling it allergy shots, perhaps a more appropriate name might be allergy drops!
Dr Stephen Lee, Specialist in ENT Surgery, Raffles ENT Centre
Hi I'm Sandra, a proud mummy of two beautiful kids and contributor to theAsianparent Singapore!