Myth: You can outgrow allergies
Fact: The response to allergens declines with age, but it doesn't disappear. In fact, a 2013 study found that 13 to 15.4 percent of adults over age 60 reported they had allergic rhinitis, commonly known as hay fever. It is true that the prevalence of indoor and outdoor allergies is lower among adults over age 50, according to NIH research; however Zeldin attributes that to a less severe response to allergens as people get older.
"The stronger your immune system is, the more severe your [allergy] symptoms are," he explains. "As you get older and your immune system weakens, your symptoms might not be as severe but your response [to allergens] doesn't go down to zero."
Myth: Pets cause allergies
Fact: It's not all Fido's or Fluffy's fault. "There is evidence that growing up in a house with pets reduces the risk of developing allergies," says Ohio allergist Stukus.
While it might be too late for you to be around dogs and cats without suffering from itchy, watery eyes and sniffles, exposing your grandkids to animals may prevent them from growing up with allergies, according to research in the December 2013 issue of Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Researchers believe that children raised in homes with dogs had a reduced risk of developing allergies, perhaps because early exposure to pets reduced their immune response to allergens.
Myth: Only doctors can detect allergies
Fact: A number of kits offer at-home results and, according to Ohio State's Martin, "The detection science is solid."
MyAllergyTest was recently cleared for home use by the Food and Drug Administration. The kit uses a drop of blood to detect sensitivities to 10 common allergens, including eggs, dust mites, wheat, cats, mold and ragweed.
DIY allergy test kits don't take the place of a doctor's care, but can help users get a clearer idea of potential allergy triggers. However, Martin cautions that the tests "don't always show positive for the right allergy." For example, a tree pollen may show up as a ragweed allergy and vice versa. The tests also won't be able to detect allergies not included in the test. "If you do have sensitivities or symptoms, you need to see an allergist to determine the next steps for treatment," Martin says.