10 Common Misconceptions About Allergies

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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.]

The Museum of Illusions Boggles the Mind

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The new Museum of Illusions in New York City explores optical illusions with an interactive twist. Visitors can test their perception and even participate in the exhibits.

The Truth Behind Italy's Abandoned 'Ghost Mansion'

YouTube/Atlas Obscura
YouTube/Atlas Obscura

The forests east of Lake Como, Italy, are home to a foreboding ruin. Some call it the Casa Delle Streghe (House of Witches), or the Red House, after the patches of rust-colored paint that still coat parts of the exterior. Its most common nickname, however, is the Ghost Mansion.

Since its construction in the 1850s, the mansion—officially known as the Villa De Vecchi—has reportedly been the site of a string of tragedies, including the murder of the family of the Italian count who built it, as well as the count's suicide. It's also said that everyone's favorite occultist, Aleister Crowley, visited in the 1920s, leading to a succession of satanic rituals and orgies. By the 1960s, the mansion was abandoned, and since then both nature and vandals have helped the house fall into dangerous decay. The only permanent residents are said to be a small army of ghosts, who especially love to play the mansion's piano at night—even though it's long since been smashed to bits.

The intrepid explorers of Atlas Obscura recently visited the mansion and interviewed Giuseppe Negri, whose grandfather and great-grandfather were gardeners there. See what he thinks of the legends, and the reality behind the mansion, in the video below.

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