Adult-Onset Allergies: Things You Need to Be Aware Of
With spring in full swing and summer on the way, we get to enjoy the benefits warmer weather and longer days. But with warmer weather comes allergies for many people. Even if you’ve never had allergies in the past, it’s possible to develop allergies as an adult. Adult-onset allergies, such as hay fever or food allergies, often appear in your twenties or thirties but can come on at any age. If you have dealt with a runny nose, scratchy throat, or continuous cold this spring, don’t count out spring allergies.
What Are Allergies?
Allergies develop when your immune system mistakes an otherwise harmless substance as a threat. Common allergens include pollen, animal dander, dust, mold, and food. When an allergen enters your body, your immune system cells release chemicals, such as histamines, which attack the allergen and cause allergy symptoms.
Common allergy symptoms include:
- Itchy, runny nose
- Itchy, watery eyes
- Skin irritation
- Digestive system issues
Symptoms can range from mild to severe and in some cases, can cause anaphylaxis, a life-threatening allergic condition.
Why Am I Getting Allergies Now?
The exact reason for adult-onset allergies is hard to pinpoint as experts still don’t know exactly what triggers it. What we do know is allergies, such as allergic rhinitis (hay fever), are increasing rapidly in the U.S. and around the world.
Theories as to why increases in allergies are occurring include:
- High concentrations of airborne pollutants
- Less ventilation in offices or homes
- Sedentary lifestyles
Another popular theory is the hygiene hypothesis which states a sanitary environment without exposure to bacteria increases the susceptibility to allergies. Sanity environments could be suppressing the natural development of our immune systems. With our homes and food being much cleaner than past generations, our immune systems may not be seeing the repertoire of environmental substances needed to develop a tolerance, so they overreact to allergens.
Am I at Risk?
If you had allergy symptoms as a baby or toddler (e.g., food allergy), they may fade during the teen years and return as an adult. However, this isn’t the case for all. Some people experience allergies for the first time as adults. As we age, our immune systems change too. Experiencing an illness, getting a pet, being pregnant, or moving to a new location with different allergens may launch an immune response and the development of allergies.
Managing Your Adult-Onset Allergy Symptoms
While no one likes the idea of developing allergies late in life, there are plenty of ways to cope with them and treat them. First, see an allergist for proper diagnosis of an allergen and to discuss proper treatment options for the type of allergen. Management may include avoiding the allergen, taking antihistamines, or immunotherapy (allergy shots) which is a way to retrain your immune system to stop reacting to allergens. Some allergies, such as food allergies or insect venom allergies, can be more serious than others. Be sure to discuss with your allergist the best options for managing and treating your specific allergies.
While allergies can be unpleasant no matter the age, the board certified allergists at the Allergy & Asthma Specialists of North Florida are here to help. Schedule an appointment today for allergy testing and to set up a treatment plan.