What Does “Hypoallergenic” Mean?

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Each year, an estimated 20 million Americans experience hay fever, a common term used to describe the symptoms associated with seasonal allergies, like runny nose, watery eyes, and sneezing.

It’s no wonder, then, that many products, cosmetics, and people use the word “hypoallergenic” to guide their buying decisions. It’s so common, in fact, that many people have misconceptions about what it actually means. They assume that if something is hypoallergenic, it won’t trigger any allergic reaction, but that’s not quite the case. And if you’re an allergy sufferer, you need to know what the term truly means.

How Do Allergies Work?

Your immune system is designed to identify microbes like viruses and bacteria. It responds to these potentially harmful substances by protecting healthy tissues and neutralizing the threat.

A healthy immune system can tell the difference between threats and harmless substances. But an overactive immune system struggles to do so. It can identify harmless things – like types of food or pollen – as dangerous.

When that happens, you get allergies. Your immune system starts its usual process of protecting you, but without an actual threat, it mistakenly harms healthy tissues. It reacts by causing inflammation and results in the symptoms of an allergic reaction.

Understanding the Hypoallergenic Label

Everything from dogs to cosmetics can be labeled as hypoallergenic. It’s a way for marketers to convince potential buyers that their products are safer than competitors. But too many people assume hypoallergenic products are completely safe.

Hypoallergenic really means that the item is less likely to cause an allergic reaction. It isn’t a legal term. There are no federal standards governing its use. It’s essentially a marketing term. While it can indicate products that contain fewer allergens or irritants, that doesn’t make them allergy-free. Most products undergo patch tests to test for potential allergic reactions, but those tests are flawed because they tend to use volunteers who have few to no allergies.

But hypoallergenic products aren’t useless. Using products with fewer allergens can reduce your chance of having a reaction. But don’t take a so-called hypoallergenic product at its word. You should still read the ingredient label and use your best judgment.

Are There Hypoallergenic Pets?

Hypoallergenic is even more of a misnomer when it comes to pets. Dander in animals’ saliva, skin, and urine is what causes pet allergies. Every dog and cat produces all three of those, so there’s no such thing as an allergy-proof animal.

However, certain pet breeds may cause fewer allergic reactions. Hypoallergenic dog and cat breeds may shed less fur and dander (meaning fewer dead skin cells on your furniture and in the air). But it doesn’t completely prevent allergic reactions, especially if you’re particularly sensitive or live with the animal.

Allergies Interfering With Your Life?

If you’re tired of allergies keeping you from doing the things you love, consider sublingual immunotherapy. Immunotherapy is the only clinically-proven allergy treatment available that provides long-lasting relief from allergy symptoms.

To get started on the path to lifelong allergy relief take our quick online allergy assessment now!

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