One in five people in the United States have at least one type of allergy, including hay fever, food, drug, and latex allergies, according to the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America. Despite this high prevalence, there are a lot of myths and misconceptions about allergies floating around – including what, exactly, an allergy is. We've dug into the scientific literature and spoke with allergy experts Drs. Jeffrey Stokes and Marc Riedl to bring you the truth about allergies, and some general guidelines to follow if you've been diagnosed with them (or suspect you may have them).
Think twice about getting a pet.
"There is no such thing as a completely hypoallergenic dog or cat," says Riedl. For starters, people aren't allergic to pet hair; they're allergic to proteins in the animals' dander (skin cells), saliva, and urine. Research has shown that no dog breed produces fewer allergens than any another. However, if you are allergic to cats or dogs and are hell bent on getting pets, you can try immunotherapy, he says. Stokes adds that washing your pet twice a week can keep the skin allergens down to a minimum (though that doesn't help with the proteins in the saliva and urine). And if you aren't allergic to pets but are allergic to pollen, you may want to keep your animals strictly inside or outside. "They bring that stuff into the house," says Stokes.
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