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  • Writer's pictureLindsay Schultz

Fact or fiction? Dispelling 10 food allergy myths

Updated: Jun 26, 2022

"Food allergies are rough - my friend has a gluten allergy!”

“I have a mild food allergy to sesame”

"Oh sorry, can you just pick off the pecans from the salad?"

"Hold on - I need some hand sanitizer since my hands are sticky with peanut butter"

"He should outgrow his food allergies, right?"

"Isn't there a cure for peanut allergy now?"

"It's only a little bite - she should be fine!"

These statements may sound calm and reassuring, however each one contains dangerous myths that we need to bust.

Food allergies are often misunderstood and confusing, with each person navigating their own unique symptoms and reactions. The daily fear of having an allergic reaction can turn conversations dire quickly.

Fear takes over our logical thinking and we go into protective mode. Rumors spread fast through word of mouth and lead to more confusion. With so much noise offline and online, separating fact from fiction requires more work.

This guide will lay out facts on food allergies, sourced from clinical research and leading institutions. Since we all eat multiple times a day, you can learn these facts to protect people living with food allergies.

Let’s tackle the myths, one by one.

Myth 1: Anaphylaxis looks like puffy lips or blotchy hives on your face or across your body.

Fact: Anaphylactic symptoms are not always visible and may present differently in each person. Popular culture from shows or movies leads us to believe these visual cues are always noticeable. In real life, the first symptoms may not be visible to others. Studying the symptoms closely will help you protect a life in case you witness someone accidentally exposed to their allergen.

Let's back up - what exactly is happening during anaphylaxis?

Anaphylaxis triggers the immune system to flood the body with chemicals after interacting with a food allergen. This abundance of chemicals can shock your system, constricting airways and dilating blood vessels which prevents oxygen from being carried throughout the body to the major organs.

This systemic response can present itself differently as many of these systems and organs are affected as a chain reaction throughout the body. Symptoms may show up in the nose, lungs, throat, sinuses, stomach and/or on the skin.

Myth #2: “I only have a mild allergy to sesame.”

Fact: Our bodies are full of dynamic systems, including our immune systems. Food allergy reactions can be mild or severe but a food allergy cannot be mild or severe. Do not let your past experiences predict the future expectations of how your body will react.

The path of a food-allergic reaction can be unpredictable, appearing mild at first but perhaps escalating in time. Reaction symptoms can occur between a few minutes to a few hours after exposure.

It is important to know the differences between mild and severe symptoms and the variety of ways they can present themselves.

  • Mild symptoms (antihistamine appropriate if experiencing one of these; two or more symptoms needs epinephrine):