Is Your Doctor Clueless About Allergies? What You Need to Know Now

If you suffer from a life-threatening allergy, it’s crucial to know how to handle a severe reaction, as recent research reveals that many doctors may not know the best course of action. For example, if you experience a significant allergic response to a food allergen, an immediate epinephrine injection could save your life. However, a study of over 400 doctors found that half of internal medicine physicians were unaware of this essential information.

Allergen Misconceptions

Researcher Kara Wada, a pediatric allergist, noted that they asked what the best first treatment would be for a patient who was experiencing vomiting and hives after consuming a known food allergen. Only 50% of physician respondents identified epinephrine as the appropriate treatment. Furthermore, 85% of internal medicine practitioners believed that egg-allergic patients should avoid the flu vaccine, even though it is now considered safe for those with egg allergies.

This misconception among doctors extends to other beliefs about allergies, including:

  • Over 75% of pediatricians were unable to identify the most common causes of food allergies in children under four years old (eggs and milk). 34% of respondents thought that strawberries were the most prevalent cause, while another 13% blamed artificial food coloring.
  • Both pediatricians and internal medicine specialists believe it is necessary to inquire about allergies to iodine, shellfish, and artificial dyes before a patient undergoes a CT scan or other imaging procedures using iodinated contrast agents. It is a widely-held belief that since shellfish contain iodine, there must be a link between a reaction to contrast agents and a shellfish allergy. However, this myth has been debunked.
  • Most pediatricians think that skin prick tests for food or inhaled allergens are inaccurate or unreliable until kids are three years old. While it is rare to perform skin prick testing on infants younger than six months, there is no other age limitation.

The Importance of Seeing a Specialist

These misconceptions highlight the importance of seeing a board-certified allergist if you are experiencing significant allergy problems. “Allergists are first board-certified in pediatrics and/or internal medicine, and then have an additional two years of training in the specialty of allergy/immunology,” explains David Stukus, a pediatric allergist. “It’s that training that makes them the best qualified to treat allergic conditions of all kinds.”

When it comes to diagnosing, treating, and managing allergies, allergists have extensive knowledge and experience. They understand the complexities of the immune system and are trained to determine what is causing your allergic reactions. They can provide you with a customized treatment plan that may include medications or immunotherapy to help you manage your symptoms and improve your quality of life (read more about immunotherapy at American College of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology).

Educating Yourself and Creating an Action Plan

In addition to seeing a specialist, it’s crucial to educate yourself about your allergies and have a clear action plan in place in case of a severe reaction. Here are some steps to follow:

  1. Identify your allergens: This is the first step in allergy management. Your allergist can help you pinpoint the allergens causing your reactions, so you can take steps to avoid them.
  2. Carry an EpiPen: If you have a life-threatening allergy, always carry an epinephrine auto-injector (such as an EpiPen) with you, and ensure that friends, family members, and coworkers know how to use it in case you are unable to administer it yourself.
  3. Create an emergency action plan: Develop a written plan that outlines the steps to take in the event of an allergic reaction, including when to use your EpiPen and when to call for emergency help ([read more about creating an emergency action plan at Food Allergy Research & Education).
  4. Stay informed: Keep up-to-date with the latest allergy research and treatment options, and maintain open communication with your allergist. They can provide you with valuable information and resources to help you manage your allergies effectively.


Allergies can significantly impact your quality of life, and, in severe cases, can be life-threatening. It’s crucial to have a clear understanding of how to manage your allergies and what steps to take in the event of a severe reaction. Seeing a board-certified allergist and educating yourself about your allergies and treatment options are essential steps in managing your symptoms and staying safe.