Food allergy: fact versus fiction

April 16, 2018

Food allergy has always been a hot topic for both allergists and patients. It’s a highly life-altering allergy to live with, so naturally patients have a lot of concerns and questions. There are several new treatment modalities coming into play, so allergists have a lot of questions as well. It’s also a topic that gets a lot of attention in the press, who cover everything from allergy bans to reactions due to kissing. As a result, there are a lot of ‘myths’ and misinformation floating around in the cultural consciousness.

A recent Annals article by Maureen Egan, MD, and Food Allergy Committee Chair Matthew Greenhawt, MD, MBA, MSc, FACAAI, addresses some of the common questions and myths about food allergy that are often asked by patients and their families, including:

  • Issues related to the risk of reaction from inhaling peanut dust or vapors (as opposed to eating).
  • If highly refined peanut oil is ok.
  • Concerns about accidental peanut exposure on airlines.
  • Whether soy milk is risky in children with cow’s milk allergy.
  • The idea of advocating for specific allergen bans (i.e. milk, peanut) in public environments.

Commenting on the article, Dr. Greenhawt said “the most important thing is that before we make a potentially life-altering decision in telling a patient to avoid a food, we make sure there is sound evidence and justification to do so. We found a few practical examples here where this could go wrong, and avoidance may not be necessary.”

The interesting thing about this article is that the findings have been backed by consistent data for many years. If interpreted correctly, the data show examples where restrictions are just not necessary. The answers to these myths were hiding in plain sight, so to speak.

“It is essential for allergists to familiarize themselves with these data so they don’t reinforce these myths,” said Dr. Greenhawt. “It is our role to educate patients, and we need to be more proactive about helping our patients understand their condition.”