Doctor debunks allergy myths

A doctor addressed five common allergy myths.
A doctor addressed five common allergy myths.

MADISON COUNTY, AL (WAFF) - Dorie Reid said she never had allergies growing up in Michigan, but since coming to North Alabama in 1992, they've been terrible.

Her allergies are also linked to asthma.

"It's miserable. My eyes swell, itchy watery eyes, chest hurts, tightness, can't sleep," said Reid.

Many people who have severe allergies try to self medicate, and many fall for the top five myths about allergies.

Number one: over the counter decongestants and antihistamines work just as well as prescription meds.

Dr. Shasi A.M. Kumar is an allergy and immunology physician in Huntsville.

"That is a myth," he said. "Some people have persistent symptoms (…) The over the counter medications don't help, mainly because you're not addressing the inflammation or the fire in the mucus lining."

Number two: you should take medication only when you have symptoms.

"This is kind of tricky. We mention some people have intermittent symptoms, let's say as a good example a real estate agent who is allergic to cats. Now, he doesn't have a cat in his home, but when he goes to homes to show that has cats, he has symptoms," said Kumar.

He said pre-treating with antihistamines will do the job.

Number three: over the counter decongestants are addictive.

"We have the oral, like Sudafed, and then you have intranasal, like nose spray decongestants," said Kumar. "Now the nose spray decongestants that cause nasal constriction does reduce the swelling (…), but if you keep using that for more than three to five days, it becomes less effective and you start using it more."

He said sprays like Afrin are like cocaine and over use will eat the lining of your nasal passages. That can be addictive, but usually not the oral type.

Myth number four: you have to give up your pet.

"If you have asthma and we know you are clearly allergic to the pet, breathing is a necessity and cat is a luxury," added Kumar.

However, he said "if" it's a mild allergy, and no asthma is involved, then there are ways to work around the pet.

Number 5: moving to a dry climate will eliminate your allergies.

"You'll be trading one allergy to another. For an allergic person, there is no safe haven," said Kumar.

He said by taking medicine early, before the allergen comes into full bloom, you can have a good result like Reid, especially with her dog.

"Since the allergy injections I can pet her, I can bathe her. I can go outside and mow the lawn," said Reid.