Allergy is an excessive response of the immune system following contact with an external substance considered harmful – such as dust, pollen – or to the ingestion of a certain food, perceived by the body as harmful. With the contribution of Dr. Francesca Puggioni, pulmonologist in Humanitas, we try to dispel some false myths related to allergies.


Does family history also come into play in the development of allergies?

Yes, family history is one of the factors in the development of allergy. If a child has an allergic mother, the child is 60% likely to become allergic; if the father is allergic, the probability is 40%. In cases where both parents are allergic, it is almost certain that the child will also develop allergy. It should be noted that the predisposition to develop allergies is inherited, but it is possible that children have sensitizations completely different from those of their parents.


Can you be allergic to fruit and vegetables?

Yes, the allergic reaction can be linked to a specific food of vegetable origin or to pollens, which share special proteins with fruit and vegetables with high allergenic power. In this case, among the most frequent cross-reactivity is that between apple, hazelnut and birch pollen. However, the combinations are endless, so you need to deal with an allergy specialist.


Can people with a food allergy develop hypersensitivity to cosmetics?

The presence of a food allergy is a symptom of atopy, that is, the genetic predisposition to develop sensitization or multiple sensitizations to substances that are harmless to the rest of the population. It is therefore possible that those who suffer from pollen allergy and have developed a cross allergy to some foods may also develop hypersensitivity to other substances, such as nickel, parabens, perfumes, and preservatives, often contained in cosmetic products. The patient usually shows contact dermatitis, with redness, itching and eczema.


Will a childhood food allergy last a lifetime?

No, the major changes to the immune system in the first 25 years of life can also lead to changes in responses to allergens. A change that can also characterize periods of hormonal variation also includes pregnancy or menopause.


Is there a vaccine against food allergies?

No specific immunotherapy treatment is currently available for food allergy. In case of cross allergy with pollen, however, the specialist will consider submitting the patient to “AIT allergen immunotherapy”, a treatment that involves the administration of increasing amounts of the inhalant allergen with standardized preparations.


Does the regular use of probiotics prevent allergies?

There is currently no scientific evidence available to demonstrate the protective effect of probiotics. Some studies have suggested that they have a synergistic action with AIT or with drug treatment, other studies have shown encouraging results if taken during pregnancy to reduce the risk of developing bronchial asthma in the unborn child.