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How Do Food Allergies Develop In Adults



Common Food Allergies In Children

Overall, food allergies are more common in children than in adults.

The most common food allergies in children include milk, peanut, egg, and tree nut allergies.

Milk, egg, and peanut allergies are the most common food allergies in young children by far. According to one study by Dr. Ruchi Gupta, these three foods account for around 80% of food allergies in children age 5 and under.

In addition to milk, egg, and peanut allergies, tree nut allergies are also very common in children age 14 and under.

While many children tend to outgrow milk and egg allergies later in life, peanut and tree nut allergies are more likely to be lifelong. 

According to the study, shellfish allergies are also among the top 5 food allergies in children age 14 and under. However, other studies have shown that shellfish allergies are much more common in adults than babies and young children. In addition, severe reactions to shellfish in children are rare. 

Potential Food Allergy Treatments

The aim of allergen-specific immunotherapy is to alter the allergic response to afood allergen so that the patient becomes desensitized or, possibly, tolerant to thespecific food. Alternatively, some patients may receive benefit simply from an increase inthe threshold dose of food required to trigger an allergic reaction. In these instances,patients would have some protection from accidental exposures and this enhanced safety oftenalso improves quality of life.

Subcutaneous immunotherapy is under investigation in various forms, includingchemically modified food extracts, peptide immunotherapy, intradermal/intramuscularimmunotherapy with lysosome-associated membrane protein-DNA vaccine, and intradermalsynthetic immunostimulatory oligodeoxynucleotides containing unmethylated CpG.Alternatively, a non-specific approach to target IgE using the monoclonal anti-IgE,omalizumab, may be effective for allergy to any food and has already been shown to decreasethe rate of adverse events during oral immunotherapy. Overall, these varied approachesprovide hope that a much-needed treatment for food allergy is on the horizon.

Can You Prevent A Food Allergy

The short answer is no. Vander Leek explains that for most people, eating shellfish or other common food allergens will often never cause any problems, but for others, an allergy may develop if a food is not eaten regularly. He says that it’s possible to have an allergic reaction to a food that you have not eaten in as little as four weeks.

The bottom line is that food allergies can happen to anyone, at any age, regardless of exposure. Some kids can outgrow a food allergy, but that’s not likely to happen with adults. If what you have is an allergy, you may need an , which, in the event of a severe and life-threatening reaction, can save your life. The best way to stay safe is to avoid the food altogether and follow the advice of your health care provider.

Maja Begovic is a freelance writer with Healthing.ca.

Modify Your Favorite Recipes

Just because food allergies may arise as you age doesn’t mean that you can’t enjoy your favorite foods. There are a variety of websites and books devoted to those suffering from specific allergies. A few ingredient substitutions will allow you to make the meals you’ve always enjoyed. There are also a variety of products designed to replace those who have dairy, peanut, and gluten allergy. More and more dairy-free and gluten-free products hit the market every day.

Food And Pollen: A Mistaken Identity

Are you developing a food allergy?

Some adult-onset food allergies arise from preexisting allergies to pollen, one of the most common environmental allergens. With the body already on high alert for pollen and anything resembling it, an overzealous immune system can become even more hypervigilant and mistake proteins in fruits and vegetables for pollen. This can cause a mild to moderate allergic reaction, which doctors refer to as oral allergy syndrome. It most commonly occurs as a misidentification of birch tree pollen, manifesting itself in allergic reactions to fresh fruits. Frustratingly, this allergy may not reveal itself until later in life.

Almost Half Of Food Allergies In Adults Appear In Adulthood

BOSTON, MA –When people think of food allergies, it’s mostly in relation to children. New research being presented at the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology Annual Scientific Meeting shows that almost half of all food-allergic adults surveyed reported one or more adult-onset food allergies.

“Food allergies are often seen as a condition that begins in childhood, so the idea that 45 percent of adults with food allergies develop them in adulthood is surprising,” says Ruchi Gupta, MD, MPH, ACAAI member and lead author of the study. “We also saw that, as with children, the incidence of food allergies in adults is rising across all ethnic groups.”

The most common food allergy among adults is shellfish, affecting an estimated 3.6 percent of U.S. adults. This marks a 44 percent increase from the 2.5 percent prevalence rate published in an influential 2004 study. Similarly, these new data suggest that adult tree nut allergy prevalence has risen to 1.8 percent from a 2008 estimate of .5 percent, an increase of 260 percent. 

People may not recognize they have a food allergy, and believe their reaction is a food intolerance. They might not seek the help of an allergist for diagnosis, but allergists are specially trained to administer allergy testing and diagnose the results.  Allergists can tailor a plan specific to your allergies.  To find an allergist near you, use the ACAAI allergist locator.

What Causes Food Allergies In Adulthood

Picture this: you’ve concluded your Thanksgiving smorgasbord with a slice of delicious pecan pie. But as you sit down for the final leg of the day’s football tripleheader, you notice you’re nauseated, short of breath, and breaking out in hives—and it has nothing to do with your investment in the game’s outcome. Suddenly, your mood is not one of gratitude and contentment but of panic, for it appears that you’ve developed a new allergy to tree nuts.

Usually, food allergies manifest themselves early in life—if you’re allergic to peanuts, it doesn’t take long to find out the hard way. However, in some instances, people may develop these allergies as adults, which can mean significant changes in diet and routine. There is still no consensus on what causes food allergies in adulthood, but allergists have some ideas of what may trigger these reactions.

The Top 8 Food Allergies

Among the general population , 8 foods account for around 90% of all food allergies. These 8 most common food allergens are:

  • Cow’s milk
  • Soy 
  • Wheat

But which of these food allergies are most common in children, and which usually develop in adults? Which tend to be outgrown, and which tend to be lifelong? Thanks to several studies, we have a clearer picture.

Allergies Are An Immune System Response

When you have a food allergy, your immune system mistakenly identifies components in your food as dangerous and attacks them with histamines. Your body may respond with symptoms like hives, itchy skin, vomiting, dizziness, swelling, and difficulty breathing. In the worst cases, sufferers can go into anaphylactic shock, which can be life-threatening if not treated immediately.

When Friend Becomes Foe

That being said, in some individuals, the body’s immune cells see the allergen as a threat, and a pro-inflammatory response occurs as a result. This is called a Type 2 immune response, and a different class of T cell appears on the scene: T helper type 2 cells.

These cells stimulate the production of immunoglobulin E molecules in most allergies.

The first exposure to an allergen that results in a Type 2 immune response is called allergic sensitization.

Importantly, once the body has been sensitized, it maintains a lasting memory of the substance. And then, when it next comes into contact with the culprit, IgE molecules are primed to release a cascade of inflammatory players such as histamine, causing the unpleasant and potentially deadly symptoms of allergy.

Can You Develop Food Allergies As An Adult

One of the best parts of transitioning from adolescence to adulthood is knowing yourself better. You’re more familiar with your personal preferences, the demands of life, and your own body. At least, that’s the ideal scenario. But food allergies can throw you for a loop when they develop later in life. 

At Advanced Allergy & Asthma in Ogden, Utah, our dedicated team is here to help you get the allergy diagnosis and treatment you need to feel comfortable and safe in your body again. 

What Should I Do If I Develop Adult Onset Allergies

If you believe you have developed allergies as an adult, avoid any suspected allergens while you are waiting to see your allergist. Your allergist may order some tests such as blood or skin tests to further evaluate your allergies.

If allergy testing confirms a diagnosis of allergy, your allergist will work with you to develop a treatment plan including avoidance measures, medications, and/or other treatment options such as for environmental allergies.

Food Allergy Or Intolerance

Food Allergy Rash: Other Symptoms, Management, and Treatments

A food allergy is an abnormal and overactive response from your immune system to something that it shouldn’t react to.

When you eat—or sometimes even come into contact with—the offending ingredient, your immune system revs up production of antibodies: proteins that fight foreign substances. These indirectly trigger the production of histamines, which start what we recognize as an ­allergic reaction. This whole cascade happens quickly, usually within minutes.

Allergy symptoms can involve your skin, respiratory system, and gastrointestinal system. They may be mildly uncomfortable or downright dangerous, and can vary in severity and type each time you come into contact with the food.

Swelling, itching, hives, shortness of breath, difficulty swallowing, lightheadedness, and/or vomiting within a few minutes to a couple of hours of eating a food may signal an allergy. “If you have such symptoms after a meal, see your physician or an allergist,” Ogbogu says—after seeking emergency care, if needed.

This is especially crucial if you have a reaction after eating shellfish. “It’s rare to develop an anaphylactic ­allergy to most foods as an adult, but shellfish is the exception,” says ­Manish ­Ramesh, M.D., Ph.D., director of the Food Allergy Center at Montefiore Medical Center in the Bronx and Scarsdale, N.Y.

Among adults, shellfish is the most prevalent food allergy, but milk, eggs, soy, peanuts, and tree nuts are also common offenders.

Who Is At Risk For Adult

Most people who are diagnosed with allergies as adults probably had an allergic episode earlier in life that they don’t remember. Often allergies follow a predictable course: and food allergies in babies and toddlers, then hay fever symptoms in mid-to-late childhood. Allergy symptoms may fade during the teen years, only to return when you’re an adult.

Some people, however, do experience allergy symptoms for the first time in adulthood. This most often happens in your twenties, thirties, and forties rather than in later years. “As we age, our immune system does weaken — that is why more seniors get than 20-year-olds,” says Anthony J. Weido, MD, president of Allergy & Asthma Associates in Houston, Texas, and the Gulf Coast area. “As the immune system weakens, the hyper-allergic reaction also weakens,” he says.

Any type of allergy can occur in adulthood, including hay fever, pet allergies, and dust mite and mold allergies as well as insect bite, drug, and food allergies. Again, experts aren’t entirely sure why this happens, but theories include:

  • being exposed to allergens when the immune system is weakened, such as during an illness or pregnancy
  • not being exposed to a high enough level of the allergen as a child but reaching that threshold in adulthood
  • moving to a new location with different trees, plants, and grasses
  • getting a pet

Food Allergies In The Elderly

Food Allergies in the Elderly

It seems like there’s a ton of information online or in books about dealing with food allergies and children. Up until now, the elderly have often been overlooked when it comes to food allergies. But, it’s projected that by 2050, more than 80 million adults will be aged 65 or older while another 20 million adults will be aged 85 or older. It’s also been discovered that many of the geriatric population will experience an aging of the immune system, causing food allergies to reveal themselves.

A study reported that 24.8% of geriatric nursing home patients were positive for food allergens. It’s important to be aware of these allergies so you can identify, treat, and conquer them.

What You Dont Know About Food Allergies

Pollen-food reactions, adult onset symptoms and cross reactivity are just some of the surprising ways our bodies respond to food.

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My grandson Tomas first noticed a distressing reaction to hazelnuts at age 8. Whenever he ate Nutella, his mouth and throat felt tingly and swollen, and so this sweet spread was then banned from his diet and the household.

A few years later, Tomas had the same reaction when he ate raw carrots. In researching this column, I learned that hazelnuts and carrots, although botanically unrelated foods, share a protein with birch pollen, to which Tomas is allergic. However, he can eat cooked carrots safely because cooking denatures the allergenic protein.

Now 21, he has not yet reacted to other foods that also contain the birch pollen protein, namely celery, potato, apple and peach, although he could eventually become sensitive to one or more of them. His father said that as an adult he’s developed similar mouth and throat symptoms when he eats apples and peaches, especially during pollen season.

I also learned of another common link between pollen and food sensitivities. People allergic to ragweed may also react to bananas and melons. Again, a shared protein is responsible. This type of allergy is believed to start with sensitization to inhalation of the offending pollen that later results in an allergic reaction when the food protein is consumed.

When Allergies Typically Develop

Most people remember first getting allergy symptoms at a young age — about 1 in 5 kids have some kind of allergy or asthma.

Many people outgrow their allergies by their 20s and 30s, as they become tolerant to their allergens, especially food allergens such as milk, eggs, and grains.

But it’s possible to develop an allergy at any point in your life. You may even become allergic to something that you had no allergy to before.

It isn’t clear why some allergies develop in adulthood, especially by one’s 20s or 30s.

Let’s get into how and why you can develop an allergy later in life, how you can treat a new allergy, and whether you can expect a new allergy or an existing one to go away with time.

More Adults Have Adult

Although the majority of research focuses on children’s food allergies, a sizeable portion of the adult population has them, too, at about 5 percent . Some children may outgrow their food allergies, but many retain them into adulthood.

Few studies were previously led that focused on adult-onset food allergies, which is why Dr. Ruchi Gupta, food allergy researcher at the Ann and Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago and Northwestern Feinberg School of Medicine, led a new, large study in 2014. Dr. Gupta said that anything you heard about adult-onset food allergy was anecdotal prior to this study. Researchers wanted to figure out how often this was happening and whether they could find any links.

Dr. Gupta and his colleagues from Northwestern University surveyed 40,447 adults. According to their research, nearly 52 percent of adults in the United States with reported food allergy developed their condition after the age of 18. Surprisingly, all of the Top 8 allergens were represented in their results. They found that the most common food allergen among adults was shellfish, affecting 3.9 percent of the U.S. population. Next in line were peanut allergies, which affected 2.4 percent, and tree nut allergies, falling in at 1.9 percent. Soy, milk and egg allergies were also evident, despite the fact that they were previously associated solely with childhood.

What Happens To Your Body

“Almost everyone’s immune system correctly ignores all foods, so they can eat a food as much or as little as they want without ever having a problem,” says Dr. Timothy Vander Leek, Associate Clinical Professor for the Division of Clinical Immunology and Allergy, in the Department of Pediatrics at the University of Alberta, and President of the Canadian Society of Allergy and Clinical Immunology . “For a very small number of people, their immune system stops ignoring the food and creates an allergic antibody to that food. We don’t understand why this happens, but it is more likely to happen to people with a history of other allergic problems, most importantly allergies to another food or if they have eczema.”

A shellfish allergy can cause symptoms such as hives, itchiness, abdominal pain, vomiting, and tingling in the mouth. It can also cause more severe and life-threatening reactions, such as a swollen throat, rapid pulse, breathing difficulties, and a loss of consciousness. As with most food allergies, symptoms can be unpredictable, and may develop within minutes or long after eating. It’s also possible to experience a more severe allergic reaction after each exposure to the food. According to Vander Leek, many people avoid shellfish and believe they are allergic because of an adverse reaction they may have experienced in the past. Allergy testing — in the form of a skin prick test — is the best way to determine whether you have an allergy or a food intolerance.

How To Handle Allergies

If you start to show symptoms of an allergy, it is important to consult your doctor. Blood and skin testing can confirm your diagnosis so that you can learn how to safely handle your allergies. Once your allergies are diagnosed, a change in diet, allergy shots or medications may help to alleviate symptoms.

So despite your age, be sure not to ignore any new reaction you might have to a food or substance. By paying close attention to this reaction, and determining its cause, you will be better prepared to eat safely and avoid further reactions.

Can Allergies Go Away With Time

19% Of Adults Think They Have Food Allergies, How Many ...

The short answer is yes.

Even if you develop allergies as an adult, you may notice they start to fade again when you reach your 50s and beyond.

This is because your immune function is reduced as you get older, so the immune response to allergens also becomes less severe.

Some allergies you have as a child may also go away when you’re a teen and well into your adulthood, perhaps making only a few appearances throughout your life until they disappear permanently.

Food Allergies Can Begin At Any Age

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Suspect you have food allergies?

You’ve always been able to eat a certain food, such as shrimp or strawberries, but suddenly you have a reaction to it. Do you have a food allergy?

Maybe.

Understanding the causes and signs of food allergies can help you discover what’s going on and develop a plan to combat them.

How Food Allergies Develop

“An allergic reaction is a person’s body detecting something foreign,” said Charles Frey, Jr., DO, an allergist with OSF HealthCare. “The immune system says, ‘Hey, this shouldn’t be here,’ and causes functions to rid the body of what it considers foreign or ‘bad.’”

For example, a person allergic to ragweed pollen may sneeze, cough and have a runny nose. This is the body’s way of trying to flush out the pollen. With food allergies, the immune system tries to get rid of the allergen through vomiting and diarrhea, but they can also cause hives or more serious reactions.

“Exposure to an allergen is what causes an allergy. You can’t develop an allergy to something that you have never been exposed to,” Dr. Frey said.

The first time someone who is prone to allergies is exposed to a potential allergen, a strong immune response is not likely. When a person has been exposed to a food more than once, the body can develop allergic antibodies, which may prompt dramatic symptoms. Those include hives or rashes, swollen lips or tongue, or even anaphylaxis, which could include life-threatening breathing problems and low blood pressure.

Food Allergies In Older People Often Misdiagnosed

The most common allergen people develop as adults, according to the Northwestern Medicine study, is shellfish, affecting 7.2 million adults in the U.S. Other common adult-onset food allergies are to milk, peanuts, tree nuts, fin fish, eggs, wheat, soy and sesame.

Identifying a food allergy can be challenging in people 50 and older. The symptoms may not be as clear cut as when you’re younger and can involve the respiratory system, skin, nose, mouth, ears, gastrointestinal tract or even the heart.

It’s not uncommon for a health care professional to mistake food allergy symptoms in an older adult for problems with a medication, sleep issues, viruses, autoimmune diseases, general aging or gastrointestinal problems like irritable bowel syndrome. The longer a person continues to eat the allergen, the more serious the reactions can be, a particular concern in people with other health issues. Patients themselves may never consider a food allergy to be the root of their health issues, which can add to the difficulty in diagnosis.

Rhonda Adkins, of Great Falls, Mont., was stunned by her shellfish allergy diagnosis at 53. “The daughter of a shellfish fisherman, I literally grew up from age twelve eating shellfish almost five days a week,” she says. “We ate bay scallops like popcorn! When my allergist gave me information about shellfish allergies, I was surprised that it happens suddenly and in adults, typically in their fifties.”

Which Allergies Are Most Common

While we’ve talked about allergies to things like dander and pollen, these are not the most frequent adult-onset allergies.  Per the American College of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology or ACAAI and data published in 2017 from their Annual Scientific Meeting, the most frequent adult-onset allergies are those to food. In fact, food comprised nearly 50 percent of these allergies!

Which foods triggered the most allergies? Peanuts, shellfish, and tree nuts. The study discovered that Caucasian people were less likely to have peanut and shellfish allergies compared to Hispanic, Asian, and black people of adult age .

While, back in 2008, the rate of tree nut allergies among adults was only 0.5 percent, it’s jumped by 260 percent. As of 2017, when the study was published, that rate was now 1.8 percent.

In addition, in 2004, only 2.5 percent of adults were allergic to shellfish. Today, that number has seen a 44-percent spike, as 3.6 percent are affected by this seafood allergy in the United States alone.

The American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology or AAAAI added that younger children aged one through three years old were also getting more food allergies. That said, they had fewer instances of shellfish allergies specifically.

               See related: New Recommendations for Exposing Children to Peanuts

Managing Food Allergies In Children

No parent wants to see their child suffer. Since fatal and near-fatal food allergy reactions can occur at school or other places outside the home, parents of a child with food allergies need to make sure that their child’s school has a written emergency action plan. The plan should provide instructions on preventing, recognizing and managing food allergies and should be available in the school and during activities such as sporting events and field trips. If your child has been prescribed an , be sure that you and those responsible for supervising your child understand how to use it.

In November 2013, President Barack Obama signed into law the School Access to Emergency Epinephrine Act , which encourages states to adopt laws requiring schools to have epinephrine auto-injectors on hand. As of late 2014, dozens of states had passed laws that either require schools to have a supply of epinephrine auto-injectors for general use or allow school districts the option of providing a supply of epinephrine. Many of these laws are new, and it is uncertain how well they are being implemented. As a result, ACAAI still recommends that providers caring for food-allergic children in states with such laws maintain at least two units of epinephrine per allergic child attending the school.


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