Are you really allergic to penicillin? Will your pet make you sneeze and wheeze? Is black mold really serious? Doctors clear up our most pervasive misunderstandings about allergies and our health.
The Myth: “Short-haired pets won’t trigger allergies.”
When patients float the idea of a hypoallergenic pet by Nabeel Farooqui, MD, assistant professor of allergy and immunology at Ohio State University Medical Center, he says “there’s no such thing.” What people with pet allergies are actually allergic to is dander, the skin and body proteins found in the animal’s urine, saliva, and skin. These white flakes are present regardless of the amount of hair a pet has (this is true for all mammals).
If Fluffy makes you stuffy, the best thing is to keep him outdoors. If that’s not possible, keep your bedroom—where you spend about one-third of your day—a pet-free zone, don’t allow animals on your furniture, and consider HEPA filters, which can remove dander from the air. Wash your pet at least once a week to help reduce dander levels.
The Myth: “My front yard is giving me allergies.”
Don’t necessarily blame the vegetation around your home. “A lot of people think that an oak tree in the front yard is causing their seasonal allergies,” says Timothy Craig, DO, professor of medicine and pediatrics at Penn State University. “Some of them end up cutting it down. But tree pollen can travel hundreds of miles in wind currents.” Chances are even if you rid your yard of its vegetation, trees from surrounding areas could still trigger allergies.
Consider taking a non-sedating antihistamine, and adjust when you spend time outside. “Do outdoor activities in the morning or evening when the winds aren’t as strong,” says Dr. Craig. “Shower when you come inside so you don’t go to bed with pollen stuck on your body.”
The Myth: “There’s toxic black mold in my bathroom. Ahhh!”
We admit, we’ve seen some pretty scary headlines on this one. Still, black mold is probably not as toxic as you might think. Black mold, or Stachybotrys, is so sticky that it can’t travel in air, and therefore doesn’t enter the lungs or respiratory tract. Some people may develop allergic reactions to certain molds, but symptoms would be similar to those from pet allergies—itchy eyes or sneezing. “The medical evidence for death-like toxic reactions is very, very sensationalized,” says Dr. Farooqui.
If you spot black mold in your home, slip on rubber gloves and use a diluted bleach solution—1 quarter cup bleach in a gallon of water—as a fungicidal agent to scrub it away.