Dr. Paul Ehrlich
When I ponder what role the allergist has to play in the contemporary medical environment, I don’t have to think about it very long before something comes up in the popular press or in practice that renews my sense of mission. To wit, there are many myths about allergies that take hold not just among the lay public but among physicians as well that have been disproved and yet persist.
Two examples have come up recently. One appears in the “In the News” section of this website because it came up in a New York Times column. There is a stubborn misconception that people with seafood allergies react to iodine, and thus shouldn’t be injected with the dye that MDs use for CT scans. (For my unmediated response to this tall tale, click here.) As I said in that letter, reputable doctors from my own esteemed NYU Hospital continue to refer patients to me under this illusion.
Let’s get this straight. Iodine, which is also added to table salt, has nothing to do with allergies. Tell your radiologist!
The other came up when the mother of a four-year old told me that he had never been vaccinated for measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR) because the pediatrician told her not to–the vaccine is egg based (like all vaccinations) and he is allergic to eggs.
The myth that these vaccines are dangerous for egg-allergic children was debunked in 1995 in a paper by a group that included Dr. Hugh Sampson, now at Mt. Sinai, Dr. Wesley Burks at Duke, and other top people. These basic vaccinations are a critical part of pediatric public health, yet they have a bad name because of some bad science, although this is just one of the little lies, not the big one. As Larry and I write in our book, food allergies are tricky enough when in the hands of doctors who know what they’re doing. In the hands of this pediatrician, the conditions are ripe for all kinds of serious problems, such as malnutrition, as well as susceptibility to MMR, three real diseases.