Allergies are excessive responses of the immune system when it comes into contact with external substances, such as dust or pollen, or when you eat potentially dangerous foods. With the help of Doctor Francesca Puggioni, pneumologist at Humanitas, we will try to dispel some false myths about allergies.

Is the presence of allergies in your family a sign you will develop one too?

Yes. Familiarity is one of the factors of allergies. If a child has an allergic mother, they have a 60% chance to develop an allergy in turn. If the allergic parent is the father, they have a 40% chance instead. The child will almost certainly develop an allergy if both parents are allergic. It is important to say that the child inherits the predisposition to allergies, but they may develop a completely different allergy from that of their parents.

Can you be allergic to fruit and vegetables?

Yes. An allergic reaction may be linked to a specific food of plant origin or to pollen, that shares proteins with a high allergenic potential with fruit and vegetables. In this case, cross-reactions are most frequent with apples, nuts and birch pollen. However, there are infinite combinations, and thus you have to ask an allergist for advice.

May people allergic to food become hypersensitive to make-up?

A food allergy is the symptom of atopy, that is to say the genetic predisposition to develop a sensitization (or more) to substances that are innocuous to the rest of the population. Thus, it is possible that people suffering from a pollen allergy and having developed a cross-allergy to some foods, may also become hypersensitive to some substances (such as nickel, parabens, perfumes, preservatives) that are often present in make-up. Generally, patients show up with contact dermatitis, with reddened skin, itches and eczema.

Do food allergies last all your life?

No. The big changes our immune system undergoes in the first 25 years of life may also determine variations in the way our body responds to allergens. This change may also characterize hormonal variation periods, such as pregnancy or menopause.

Is there a vaccine against food allergies?

At this time, there is not a specific immunotherapy treatment for food allergies. However, in the case of cross-allergies with pollens the specialist may submit patients to a AIT allergen immunotherapy. This treatment involves the administration of increasing quantities of the allergen with standard preparations.

Will the regular use of probiotics prevent allergies?

Right now, there is no scientific evidence in support of the protective effect of probiotics. However, some studies have shown that they carry out a synergic action together with AIT or with the pharmacological treatment. Other studies have shown that they are useful to protect the fetus against bronchial asthma if the mother takes them while pregnant.