Why Does This Happen
It isnt exactly clear why allergies might develop in adulthood.
Researchers believe that a severe allergic reaction during childhood, even a single episode of symptoms, can increase your likelihood of developing allergies as an adult when youre re-exposed to that allergen at higher levels.
In some cases, these links are easy to see and represent what is known as the atopic march. Children who have food allergies or skin conditions like eczema may develop symptoms of seasonal allergies, like sneezing, itching, and sore throats, as they get older.
Then, symptoms fade for a while. They may return in your 20s, 30s, and 40s when youre exposed to an allergy trigger. Possible adult allergy triggers can include:
- Allergen exposure when your immune system function is reduced. This happens when youre sick, pregnant, or have a condition that compromises your immune system.
- Having little exposure to an allergen as a child. You may not have been exposed to high enough levels to trigger a reaction until adulthood.
- Relocating to a new home or workplace with new allergens. This could include plants and trees that you werent exposed to before.
- Having a pet for the first time. suggests this can also happen after a long period of having no pets.
Is It Possible To Suddenly Develop Allergies
2 Minute Read
Medically Reviewed by UPMC Susquehanna
January 21, 2019
For those who suffer from seasonal allergies, you know that this time of year can be a challenge. Flowers, trees, and grasses are in bloom and growing which means pollen and other allergens are in the air. In the U.S., an estimated 18 million adults have hay fever or allergic rhinitis, caused by pollens, weeds, grasses, and molds. Other people may have environmental allergies to things like animals and dust mites. Did you know your allergies change and this year may be the first you experience symptoms?
Here’s Why Some Of Us Develop An Allergy To Sunlight
Without the Sun, there would be no life on our planet – and yet for some, this giant ball of hot plasma makes life rather difficult. There are people who develop a rash or even break out into painful, itchy hives if they get exposed to sunlight. While the folk term for this problem is called sun allergy, these symptoms can actually be triggered by several distinct conditions, which, technically speaking, are not always allergies.
The most common sun-related skin problem – affecting roughly 10 percent of the population – is called polymorphous light eruption . Shortly after exposure to sunlight a person’s skin around the chest and arms becomes red and itchy, and it can take up to a week for the symptoms to resolve. It’s most common in Caucasian women with fair skin who live in the northern parts of the northern hemisphere.
What’s interesting is that PLE tends to flare up in spring and early summer, when people first start getting out in the sunlight. As exposure increases throughout the sunny weather, symptoms ease up – but then disappointingly return the next year. Scientists are not entirely sure why PLE develops, but it seems to be a sensitivity to ultraviolet radiation – the short wavelength of sunlight that reaches our planet.
A sunlight-induced rash is definitely bothersome to deal with, but unlike some other allergies at least it’s highly unlikely you’ll end up dying from anaphylaxis. So… always look on the bright side?
Why These Allergies Are Happening Now
Allergists dont yet know why some people are affected by constant exposure to a potential allergen while others arent. Its a biological false alarm. However, the rise of adult-onset allergies can be particularly vexing because sufferers had been fine for years. Or at least they appeared that way. When people move to a new place, it usually takes at least a couple of seasons to develop, says Dr. Chen.
Lets say youre a lifelong Angeleno who moves to New York, where birch trees are everywhere. When spring rolls around, your immune system may respond to the new factor in the air. It takes a week or two to develop all the antibodies specific to each pollen. By the time those antibodies make it through your whole body, the irritant could be gone and symptoms wont get a chance to show up, says Dr. Sokol. So youll have no idea youve been primed to launch an allergic response.
That same thing will happen the next year, only more quickly, although you still might not see symptoms. But you better believe that your bodys not going to forget about it in your third birch-pollen season, says Dr. Sokol. The next year, your allergy cells are primed for attack, and you are miserable from the first day of birch-pollen exposure to the last day.
This is also true for new exposures to pet dander, or foods that you eat on occasion. Once that immune response starts, it can be hard to stop, says Dr. Sokol.
How Common Are They
Nearly 18 million adults in the United States have hay fever, or allergic rhinitis. Itâs caused by pollens, weeds, grasses, and molds. Many more have allergic reactions to other things in the environment, like dust mites, dogs, and cats. Some are allergic to foods, like peanuts or shellfish. Still others are allergic to medicines, like penicillin.
Doctors donât know exactly how many adults are diagnosed with allergies for the first time. But nasal allergies affect more Americans every years, according to the American College of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology.
âAs the population is aging, weâre seeing that people can have late-onset allergies,â? says Beth Corn, MD, an allergist in New York City. âNow, it could be that some people were not diagnosed; they might have really had allergies earlier on. It just might be that people are also a little bit more aware now of allergies.â?
Whatever the case, allergies are all over, and theyâre big business. Theyâre the sixth-leading cause of chronic illness in the U.S., according to the CDC. And they cost Americans more than $18 billion a year.
We know what causes allergies: Your immune system overreacts to an allergen . You sneeze, sniffle, itch, or cough. But why this happens to you, when your Uncle Fred is on their third shrimp cocktail, is unclear.
âThatâs the thing about allergies,â? Corn says. âYouâre fine, youâre fine, youâre fine … until youâre not.â?
Nobody knows why.
How Do You Treat Allergies
Most allergy treatment involves prescription or over-the-counter antihistamines, which treat allergy symptoms. As mentioned, Epinephrine is also used to treat severe allergic reactions.
Other allergy treatments include various forms of immunotherapy, most commonly allergy shots and allergy drops. Both allergy shots and allergy drops expose the immune system to small amounts of one or more allergens at predetermined intervals. Allergen doses start small, then gradually increase. The goal of the treatment is to retrain the immune system to recognize the allergen as not dangerous, decreasing the frequency or severity of allergy symptoms.
Allergy shots and allergy drops are the only current treatment methods that reduce sensitivity to an allergen itself, instead of just treating the allergy symptoms. If youre interested in either option, speak to an experienced allergist.
What Causes You To Develop Allergies
Allergies can develop at any point in a persons life. Usually, allergies first appear early in life and become a lifelong issue. However, allergies can start unexpectedly as an adult. A family history of allergies puts you at a higher risk of developing allergies some time in your life.
Allergies develop when your body thinks a substance such as animal hair, pollen, or mold is harmful. That substance awakens your immune system to release a chemical called histamine, which leads to your allergy symptoms. As you age, your immune system may start to weaken, so your response to an allergen also weakens. Repeated exposure can also cause your immune system to overreact. If you develop allergies as an adult, you may have had slight symptoms throughout your life, but an event such as a move or a new pet triggered your immune system to respond.
Can Pet Allergies Develop Later In Life
It sounds crazy, but imagine waking up one day in your 40s with allergy symptoms. You look around your house for the culprit. Maybe its the houseplants or maybe you left a window open.
Youve always kept your cat and dog in the house without a problem so you know the symptoms arent from your pets. Or are they?
If this sounds familiar, youre not alone. 10 percent of Americans are allergic to household pets and cats are 2x more likely to cause allergies than other indoor pets . Like other allergies, those caused by pets are on the rise!
Interestingly, pet allergies can develop later in life. In fact, they can develop at any time and allergies can even vanish on their own too.
In the sections below, Ill share my experience with pet allergies and the reactions I began getting at age 30. We will also discuss what can cause allergies later in life and what you can do to find relief.
How Do Adult Onset Allergies Develop
If youre predisposed to a certain type of allergy, but youve never been around that allergen before, it can seem like your symptoms have materialized out of nowhere. Say, for instance, you never had pets growing up. Youre allergic to pet dander, but youd never know it. Then, your roommate decides to get a dog, and your allergies start going crazy.
So yes, even though it may seem like you just woke up with allergies one day, theres usually a medical explanation for why its happened. Unfortunately, that explanation can be difficult to pinpoint, especially when youre simply becoming aware of an allergy you may have had for some time.
In other cases, allergies do develop on their own. You may notice changes suddenly, or monitor a gradual shift in your reaction to a specific substance. Adult onset allergies typically develop differently in different people.
A New Place Means Potential New Allergy Symptoms
Allergies, especially the seasonal variety, can change a lot over a lifetime, but it might not have anything to do with your body. Every place you live has its own set of allergens, so moving from one town to the next will likely change your allergies too. Teens moving out of their parents houses or adults changing jobs may experience a sudden surge of allergies, or sweet, sneeze-less relief.
It also takes time to become allergic to things. You may not feel a reaction to ragweed during your first summer in Tennessee, but have a full-blown allergy the next. Thats because you became sensitized one year and reacted the next. Similarly, you may visit someone with a dog and seem fine, but sneeze constantly the next time you hang out at their home.
Mayo Clinic Q And A: Lactose Intolerance Can Develop At Any Age
DEAR MAYO CLINIC: What would cause someone to become lactose-intolerant later in life? Im in my 40s and have never had an issue with dairy, but, now, I cant seem to have it without problems. Do I need to see a doctor to be tested for allergies, or should I just avoid dairy?
ANSWER: Lactose intolerance isnt a true allergy, and it can develop at any age. In some people, lactose intolerance may be triggered by another medical condition, such as Crohns disease. In others, it develops without a specific underlying cause. It would be a good idea to have your condition evaluated by your doctor to confirm that what youre dealing with truly is lactose intolerance.
Lactose intolerance results from a problem with the carbohydrate lactose, a type of sugar found in dairy products. When you eat or drink dairy products, enzymes in your small intestine digest lactose, so the body can make energy. In people with lactose intolerance, a certain enzyme, called lactase, is missing from the body. When those people eat dairy products, the body has no way to break down the lactose. This leads to fermentation of the sugar in the intestines and triggers symptoms, such as diarrhea, nausea, abdominal cramps, bloating and gas.
Are Allergies Worse In Childhood Or Adulthood
Per the American College of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology and 2013 data, 28 million kids across the United States have allergies. As many as 50 million adults may get reactions to allergens as well.
While more adults have allergies in the United States than children, is there an age group that has it worse? Research that appeared in a 2012 article at MassGeneral Hospital for Children in Massachusetts suggests that adults may be the most at risk for intense, serious symptoms. Adult behaviors such as taking certain medications and drinking alcohol may increase risk for severe anaphylaxis. Exercise and having asthma can also increase reaction severity. Of course, young children who cannot communicate symptoms can also have severe reactions which go unnoticed and progress to dangerous levels.
A severe allergic reaction, which can be triggered by foods or venom , is called anaphylaxis. This is a life-threatening emergency condition in which the patient goes into shock, cannot breathe, and may have vomiting, nausea, and skin rashes. Anaphylaxis can occur instantaneously or sometimes minutes after eating an allergen or being stung. Epinephrine can control cases of anaphylaxis that are caught immediately. The longer the patient goes without treatment, the greater the likelihood that death can occur. For this reason patients with a history of severe anaphylaxis are encouraged to always have an in date epinephrine injector available.
Can A Nut Allergy Develop After The Age Of 40
tree nut allergyfood allergies
Tree nut allergies are common in both children and adults. Approximately 9% of children with a tree nut allergy eventually outgrow their tree nut allergy. In an adult, outgrowing or reversing a tree nut allergy is not common.
Tree nuts can cause severe, potentially fatal, allergic reactions. To prevent an allergic reaction, strict avoidance of tree nuts is essential. A person with an allergy to one type of tree nut has a greater chance of also being allergic to other tree nuts. Therefore, many experts advise patients with an allergy to a tree nut to avoid all tree nuts. Your allergist can help you with personalized recommendations for your care. The Food Allergy Research & Education website is also an excellent resource.
Can You Get A Peanut Allergy Later In Life
Allergy is nothing but the body over-reacting to certain things that are usually not considered to be harmful to the body. Many people have allergy from different foods and elements, chemicals or even scents. Usually, the allergy becomes prominent in a young age. However, in some cases, you can develop allergy at a later life.
Are There Any Special Considerations For Adults Who Develop Asthma
People with multiple medical conditions need to be aware of how their illnesses and the medications they use may affect one another.
If you take more than one medication, talk with your physician about ways to simplify your medication program. Explore the possibility of combining medications or using alternate ones that will have the same desired effect. Be sure to discuss potential drug interactions with anything you take including vitamins or herbal supplements.
Can Asthma Reappear In Adults After Disappearing Years Ago
Asthma is usually diagnosed in childhood. In many patients; however, the symptoms will disappear or are significantly reduced after puberty. After age 20, symptoms may begin to reappear.
Researchers have tracked this tendency for reappearing asthma and found that people with childhood asthma tend to experience reappearing symptoms through their 30s and 40s at various levels of severity.
Regardless of whether your asthma is active, you should continue to avoid your known triggers and keep your rescue medications or prescriptions up-to-date and handy in case you need them.
Can You Get Cat And Dog Allergies Later In Life
Its important to note that most people will develop allergies as children or as young adults in their early 20s. It is rare for older adults to develop new allergies, however, its not impossible.
According to immunologist Kanao Otsu , most adult allergies will have existed in the individual as a child, however, the symptoms may have been minor.
After speaking with my allergist, I understood that I likely had pet allergies when I was young. At an early age, my body was resilient enough that I may not have noticed the symptoms. Over time the symptoms became stronger because the allergies werent addressed.
During my life, Ive moved a lot for work so Ive gone from dry arid environments to lush tropical environments. My body has worked to adjust to new areas and differing levels of allergens.
Ive also lived in stressful environments and taken high amounts of antibiotics due to the work Ive done. These may or may not have affected my allergies, however, stress, antibiotics, pregnancies, and major lifestyle changes will have a profound effect on your body, especially the immune system.
Things that may affect your immune system could include:
- Lifestyle changes
- Antibiotic use
What Are Adult Onset Allergies
Adult-onset allergies are those allergy symptoms that manifest later in life. This could be anywhere from younger adulthood, such as in a persons 20s, to a persons senior years, when they are 70 or 80 years old. Typically, if you lived through your 20s and your 30s without any new allergies, the chances of getting adult-onset allergies diminishes.
The strangest part about adult-onset allergies is that you can wake up today irritated by an allergen that didnt bother you yesterday. You could have been in contact with said allergen every single day for years with no adverse effects. Now, you have a runny nose, itching eyes and uncontrollable sneezing around that allergen.
See related: How to Keep Your Charlotte Seasonal Allergies in Check
Developing New Allergies As An Adult
Allergies are like any ailment, they can strike whenever and its not uncommon for allergies to sprout up for the first time in adulthood. Many individuals think that they cannot acquire allergies that they have not experienced before, but it is possible.
- While were born with a genetic predisposition to either have or not have certain allergies, the less youve been exposed to allergens as a kid, the more likely you may be to develop allergies as an adult.
- Many experts point to recent environmental changes like higher temps and increased CO2 levels as reasons that we may have greater amounts of pollen and other allergens in the air than ever before.
- Another reason you may get allergies later in life is if you move across state lines. In this case, youre bound to be exposed to a whole slew of potential allergens that your body hasnt encountered before and your immune system doesnt know what to do with.
- Numerous people were not tested and diagnosed with an allergen when they were kids and now becoming more aware of their allergies as adults.
Ragweed season begins in August when it first blooms and releases pollen; the season may last until November, with peak counts usually occurring in September. This tends to be a time where adults start realizing when something is not normal with their allergies. If you suspect allergies, please visit Advanced ENT and Allergy at . Relief is just a phone call away.
Barbara 93 Years Old And Never Had An Allergy In Her Life
Barbara also recently lost her husband and moved from a large house to sheltered accommodation some way from the town where she lived most of her married life. She is now closer to her daughter and is enjoying her life but suddenly, out of the blue, she has developed a serious allergy to eggs. She cant even touch an egg now, a food she used to enjoy as a quick, healthy meal. She now fears that she is beginning to have problems with dairy too and is experimenting with soya milk to see if this brings her some relief. One of her simple pleasures was a cappuccino every day and she is really missing them and finds black coffee takes some getting used to. She has developed quite painful eczema and thinks that certain foods are contributing to its severity. She has never had any allergies before, so why is this happening? Her doctor told her he has never seen someone in their 90s who suddenly got food allergies. Not the most helpful comment but probably true, though Barbara is clearly not alone. She has been refereed to an immunologist but the long wait for a local appointment meant that going private has secured an earlier appointment. Hopefully she will find some answers.
People of this generation may also be the first to say, They didnt have allergies in my day! despite the fact that there certainly have been incidences of allergies going back hundreds of years. They were still rare and certainly on the rise and sadly still very little understood.
Asthma Symptoms Can Mimic Other Illnesses Or Diseases Especially In Older Adults For Example:
- Hiatal hernia, stomach problems, heart failure, or rheumatic arthritis can create asthma-like symptoms.
- Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease has many of the same symptoms as asthma. COPD, which includes emphysema and chronic bronchitis, is very common in older adults especially those who are or have been smokers.
Don 70 Years Old And Never Had An Allergy In His Life
Don worked as a builder and decorator. He had a fairly active career involving heavy work and long days. Suddenly, in his late 60s his skin is so sensitive he now has to think about which washing powder to use and which shower gel and soap will not aggravate his skin. He can no longer eat peanut butter for his lunch every day because his body has decided enough is enough. Luckily for Don he recognised the symptoms and has been able to get to a situation where he can tolerate his most favourite of all foods occasionally and does not have a serious allergy. After years of watching me suffer with hives, eczema and painful itchy skin he suddenly has it himself; he has a new understanding of the years of suffering me and my sister went through and is learning what triggers his outbreaks.
When Does A Person Develop Allergies
Allergies can develop at any point in a persons life. One factor that increases your chance is your family history. If one parent is allergic there is a 30-50% chance of their offspring developing allergies. This jumps to 60-80% if both parents are allergic.
In many cases, allergies first present early in life, during infancy or the toddler years. Most of these allergies will be lifelong concerns, although some can resolve on their own.
What Kind Of Physician Treats Adult Onset Asthma
Many older patients are treated for asthma by their internist or family physician; however, if your asthma symptoms are not under control within three to six months, or if you have severe persistent asthma, or if you are having asthma episodes that need emergency treatment, it may be time to see an asthma specialist. Allergists/Immunologists or pulmonologists are specialists who treat asthma. Those who have completed training in those specialties are usually called board-certified or board-eligible.
Celiac Later In Life: Can You Become Gluten Intolerant
Research shows that celiac disease can strike at any age, even in people who have tested negative in the past. Whats behind the rise in celiac among seniors?
Jose L. Pelaez/Corbis
Celiac disease can strike at any age, even in people who once tested negative for the condition.
The digestive disease is being diagnosed more frequently in everyone including the elderly, says Joseph Murray, MD, a gastroenterologist at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, and author of the book : Essential Guide to Managing Celiac Disease and Other -Related Conditions.
Celiac disease is an autoimmune condition that tends to run in families. People with celiac cant tolerate gluten, a protein found in wheat, barley, and rye, according to the National Institutes of Health . In these people, gluten damages the part of the small intestine that helps absorb nutrients. Signs and symptoms may include pain, diarrhea, malnutrition, , and , the NIH says. In older people, cognitive impairment can also be a symptom, Dr. Murray says.