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Debunking Old Wives' Tales: Your Children’s Allergies

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Debunking Old Wives' Tales: Your Children’s Allergies

Jun 26, 2023

There are a lot of misconceptions about children's allergies. Can your child be born with allergies? Can your child outgrow allergies? Is there anything you can do to prevent your child from developing allergies? Pediatrician Cindy Gellner, MD, examines the most common misunderstandings about allergies in children.

Episode Transcript

There are a lot of myths out there about allergies. I'll tell you what's a myth and what are the truths.

Fact: Babies Are Not Born with Allergies

An allergy is technically an over-exaggerated immune system response to something normal that a person has been exposed to in the past, and now they are hypersensitive to it.

Parents often tell me that their child was born with allergies. Well, at birth, you haven't been exposed to the outside world long enough to develop an allergy. What is true is that your child can be born with a predisposition to be allergic to something. Allergies are hereditary. So if you, as parents, are allergic to anything, your child is more likely to develop allergies. It's when those genes turn on that determine when your child will develop that allergy. Often, it's after your child is a year old and they've been exposed to a whole host of things.

Fact: Most Seasonal Allergies Can't Be Outgrown

I hear a lot, too, from parents that their child outgrew their allergies. While this is sometimes true for food allergies—up to 80% of kids might outgrow their allergies to eggs or milk by adulthood—most kids don't outgrow seasonal allergies. For some lucky kids, allergies get better during the teen years, and that's thought to be due to hormones. But some kids don't have allergies at all when they're little, and then develop them when they're teens. Some kids will outgrow an allergy to one thing, only to replace it with another. Again, it goes back to that whole genetics thing. The stronger the genes for allergies in your child's family, the less likely they are to outgrow their allergies.

Fact: A Clean(er) House Does Not Prevent Allergies

Finally, there's the thought that if you clean your house really well, your child won't have allergies anymore. While this makes sense if your child is allergic to mold and dust, and cleaning your house would reduce your child's exposure to those things, there is something called the hygiene hypothesis blowing that out of the water. It says that younger children exposed to a less-than-bleached, spotless environment may be less likely to develop allergies.

So if your child's allergies are really bugging them, there are a lot of different medications that you can get for your child's allergies, and your pediatrician can help you figure out which ones will work best. If your child's allergies are still bad on those medicines, then it might be time for a referral to an allergist.


updated: June 26, 2023
originally published: March 5, 2018