10 Common Misconceptions About Allergies

iStock
iStock

In this video from our YouTube archives, host Elliott Morgan clears up some misconceptions about allergies (unfortunately, he can't do anything about your sinuses). Transcript courtesy of Nerdfighteria.

Hi, I'm Elliott, this is mental_floss on YouTube, and today, I'm going to talk about some misconceptions about allergies.

Misconception #1: Blood tests are the best way to determine food allergies. Actually, 50 to 60 percent of blood tests will give a false positive result when it comes to food allergies. The best way to find out if someone is allergic to food is to do a test called an oral food challenge, which I know sounds like a challenge some YouTuber made up, but I promise it's real. In an OFC, an allergist feeds their patient small doses of whichever food is thought to be an allergen. After observation, the dose is increased. This gets repeated. Of course, if a reaction shows, the patient gets treated, and if there's no reaction, then there's no allergy, congratulations!

Misconception #2: Food allergies are uncommon. According to the Food Allergy Research and Education Organization, 15 million people in the United States suffer from a food allergy. Even more surprising is that 1 in 13 kids has one. In case you're starting to wonder if you may be one of those people, I'll let you know what you should look for. Ninety percent of food allergies are one of these eight foods: milk, soy, eggs, wheat, peanuts, tree nuts, fish, and shellfish.

Misconception #3: Penicillin allergies are common. You might think you're allergic to penicillin just like 1 in 10 adults who claim to be, but don't be so sure. In a study done at the Cleveland Clinic, 21 of 24 patients who said that they were allergic to penicillin received negative results when they were given a skin test. So almost 90 percent of them were wrong about their allergy. This is probably because they had a reaction to the drug when they were younger, but allergies sometimes just go away, which brings me to ...

Misconception #4: Allergies are for life. Some people develop allergies as they get older; on the other hand, some people just outgrow allergies. In fact, over a quarter of children in the U.S. outgrow their food allergies. It typically happens before they turn 10 years old, but it could happen at any time.

Misconception #5: People who are allergic to shellfish can't do CT scans. Some people believe that their shellfish allergy means they shouldn't have a computerized tomography scan. Before a CT scan, a patient must ingest or be given a dye or contrast, which contains iodine. Shellfish also contain iodine, but studies show that people who are allergic to shellfish are actually intolerant of proteins in the animals rather than iodine, but some doctors still will avoid giving these patients a contrast with iodine in it.

Misconception #6: Babies shouldn't be given allergenic foods before they turn one. The American Academy of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology recommends exactly the opposite. They claim that giving babies food like peanut butter, fish, and eggs when they're four to six months old might actually help prevent future food allergies, but this is a relatively new finding and it hasn't been thoroughly studied, so if you have a baby, you should probably just like, talk to your doctor, OK, and see what they say about this kind of stuff, they're usually really smart, they went to a lot of school.

Misconception #7: Allergic reactions come from allergens. You can actually blame your immune system for those pesky hives. Once your body inhales, eats, or comes into contact with an allergen, the immune system misidentifies it as this harmful substance. Then, it makes antibodies which attack the allergen, so the allergen isn't attacking your body, it's actually the other way around.

Misconception #8: You know how you'll react to an allergen. Allergies are unpredictable. Someone who usually has a minor intolerance to an allergen still risks a more serious reaction, like anaphylaxis.

Misconception #9: Animal hair is an allergen. If you're allergic to an animal, it's probably their dander, saliva, and/or urine, gross, that's giving you trouble. Dander gets shed from the body, and it's made of skin cells, and it contains proteins that some immune systems don't like, but I should mention that animal hair can contain dander or other allergens including pollen and dust, so it's still worth vacuuming like, once every always. Always vacuum.

Misconception #10: Mediation is the only way to treat allergies. Some other treatment options include shots and sublingual immunotherapy, or if your allergies are seasonal or related to your home, you could try like a humidifier or maybe getting rid of your carpet or your dog.

Thanks for watching Misconceptions on Mental Floss on YouTube, which is made with the help of all of these nice people. If you have a topic for an upcoming Misconceptions episode that you would like to see, leave it in the comments, and I will see you next week. Bye.

[Images and footage provided by Shutterstock.]

10 Products for a Better Night's Sleep

Amazon/Comfort Spaces
Amazon/Comfort Spaces

Getting a full eight hours of sleep can be tough these days. If you’re having trouble catching enough Zzzs, consider giving these highly rated and recommended products a try.

1. Everlasting Comfort Pure Memory Foam Knee Pillow; $25

Everlasting Comfort Knee Pillow
Everlasting Comfort/Amazon

For side sleepers, keeping the spine, hips, and legs aligned is key to a good night’s rest—and a pain-free morning after. Everlasting Comfort’s memory foam knee pillow is ergonomically designed to fit between the knees or thighs to ensure proper alignment. One simple but game-changing feature is the removable strap, which you can fasten around one leg; this keeps the pillow in place even as you roll at night, meaning you don’t have to wake up to adjust it (or pick it up from your floor). Reviewers call the pillow “life-changing” and “the best knee pillow I’ve found.” Plus, it comes with two pairs of ear plugs.

Buy it: Amazon

2. Letsfit White Noise Machine; $21

Letsfit White Noise Machine
Letsfit/Amazon

White noise machines: They’re not just for babies! This Letsfit model—which is rated 4.7 out of five with nearly 3500 reviews—has 14 potential sleep soundtracks, including three white noise tracks, to better block out everything from sirens to birds that chirp enthusiastically at dawn (although there’s also a birds track, if that’s your thing). It also has a timer function and a night light.

Buy it: Amazon

3. ECLIPSE Blackout Curtains; $16

Eclipse Black Out Curtains
Eclipse/Amazon

According to the National Sleep Foundation, too much light in a room when you’re trying to snooze is a recipe for sleep disaster. These understated polyester curtains from ECLIPSE block 99 percent of light and reduce noise—plus, they’ll help you save on energy costs. "Our neighbor leaves their backyard light on all night with what I can only guess is the same kind of bulb they use on a train headlight. It shines across their yard, through ours, straight at our bedroom window," one Amazon reviewer who purchased the curtains in black wrote. "These drapes block the light completely."

Buy it: Amazon

4. JALL Wake Up Light Sunrise Alarm Clock; $38

JALL Wake Up Light Sunrise Alarm Clock
JALL/Amazon

Being jarred awake by a blaring alarm clock can set the wrong mood for the rest of your day. Wake up in a more pleasant way with this clock, which gradually lights up between 10 percent and 100 percent in the 30 minutes before your alarm. You can choose between seven different colors and several natural sounds as well as a regular alarm beep, but why would you ever use that? “Since getting this clock my sleep has been much better,” one reviewer reported. “I wake up not feeling tired but refreshed.”

Buy it: Amazon

5. Philips SmartSleep Wake-Up Light; $200

Philips SmartSleep Wake-Up Light
Philips/Amazon

If you’re looking for an alarm clock with even more features, Philips’s SmartSleep Wake-Up Light is smartphone-enabled and equipped with an AmbiTrack sensor, which tracks things like bedroom temperature, humidity, and light levels, then gives recommendations for how you can get a better night’s rest.

Buy it: Amazon

6. Slumber Cloud Stratus Sheet Set; $159

Stratus sheets from Slumber Cloud.
Slumber Cloud

Being too hot or too cold can kill a good night’s sleep. The Good Housekeeping Institute rated these sheets—which are made with Outlast fibers engineered by NASA—as 2020’s best temperature-regulating sheets.

Buy it: SlumberCloud

7. Comfort Space Coolmax Sheet Set; $29-$40

Comfort Spaces Coolmax Sheets
Comfort Spaces/Amazon

If $159 sheets are out of your price range, the GHI recommends these sheets from Comfort Spaces, which are made with moisture-wicking Coolmax microfiber. Depending on the size you need, they range in price from $29 to $40.

Buy it: Amazon

8. Coop Home Goods Eden Memory Foam Pillow; $80

Coop Eden Pillow
Coop Home Goods/Amazon

This pillow—which has a 4.5-star rating on Amazon—is filled with memory foam scraps and microfiber, and comes with an extra half-pound of fill so you can add, or subtract, the amount in the pillow for ultimate comfort. As a bonus, the pillows are hypoallergenic, mite-resistant, and washable.

Buy it: Amazon

9. Baloo Weighted Blanket; $149-$169

Baloo Weighted Blanket
Baloo/Amazon

Though the science is still out on weighted blankets, some people swear by them. Wirecutter named this Baloo blanket the best, not in small part because, unlike many weighted blankets, it’s machine-washable and -dryable. It’s currently available in 12-pound ($149) twin size and 20-pound ($169) queen size. It’s rated 4.7 out of five stars on Amazon, with one reviewer reporting that “when it's spread out over you it just feels like a comfy, snuggly hug for your whole body … I've found it super relaxing for falling asleep the last few nights, and it looks nice on the end of the bed, too.” 

Buy it: Amazon 

10. Philips Smartsleep Snoring Relief Band; $200

Philips SmartSleep Snoring Relief Band
Philips/Amazon

Few things can disturb your slumber—and that of the ones you love—like loudly sawing logs. Philips’s Smartsleep Snoring Relief Band is designed for people who snore when they’re sleeping on their backs, and according to the company, 86 percent of people who used the band reported reduced snoring after a month. The device wraps around the torso and is equipped with a sensor that delivers vibrations if it detects you moving to sleep on your back; those vibrations stop when you roll onto your side. The next day, you can see how many hours you spent in bed, how many of those hours you spent on your back, and your response rate to the vibrations. The sensor has an algorithm that notes your response rate and tweaks the intensity of vibrations based on that. “This device works exactly as advertised,” one Amazon reviewer wrote. “I’d say it’s perfect.”

Buy it: Amazon

This article contains affiliate links to products selected by our editors. Mental Floss may receive a commission for purchases made through these links.

Common Misconceptions About Dreams

If your nightmares look like Henry Fuseli's The Nightmare (1781), we're so sorry.
If your nightmares look like Henry Fuseli's The Nightmare (1781), we're so sorry.
Henry Fuseli, Detroit Institute of Arts, Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

Contrary to what Ebenezer Scrooge initially thought in Charles Dickens's A Christmas Carol, nightmares aren’t merely a side effect of eating cheese before bed. In fact, studies have shown that pre-sleep snacks—dairy or otherwise—probably don’t influence your dreams at all. But even if you can’t blame your latest wacky snooze vision on last night’s midnight helping of chicken nuggets, you can try to trace it back to some stressor from your daily life.

Since dream interpretation isn’t an exact science—and sleep in general is one of science’s murkier territories—quite a few myths have arisen about what, why, and how we dream. In this episode of Misconceptions, Mental Floss's own Justin Dodd walks us through some of the more common fallacies about dreams. (And if you’re convinced you never dream, well, he has some news for you on that front, too.)

For more videos like this one, subscribe to the Mental Floss YouTube channel here.