October 3, 2019
Can Adults Suddenly Develop Allergies?
Congratulations! You’re 43 years old and have never joined the masses of allergy sufferers who have tissues at the ready and feel so fatigued they could fall asleep standing up.
Not so fast! Your luck could run out at any time. Adults up to even their 60s and beyond have turned up at the allergist’s office for the first time and headed home with a diagnosis of adult-onset allergies.
But why would a perfectly capable immune system start misfiring well after childhood?
Unfortunately, we cannot pinpoint exactly why this happens but do know that it’s not uncommon. While some people will have gone undiagnosed for decades (perhaps with milder, less frustrating symptoms that gradually escalate), many others truly do develop allergies as adults.
You’re more likely to experience adult-onset allergies if allergies run in the family. After you move to a new geographical area, exposure to different environmental allergens could lead to an allergy diagnosis once your immune system decides to overreact. Some people find that their new symptoms mirror those of allergies, but what they actually have is called nonallergic rhinitis. This condition results from a sensitivity to irritants such as fragrances, makeup, cleaning agents, pollution, medication, or weather changes.
Researchers cannot explain why people suddenly develop food allergies after years of tolerating foods. Food allergies can go from mild annoyance in one instance to life threatening the next, so seek answers from an allergist as soon as you suspect you have one. Do not put this one off.
In fact, if you think you may have developed any type of allergy as an adult, your next step should be scheduling an appointment with an allergist. You shouldn’t just grin and bear the itchy eyes, scratchy throat, nasal congestion, sneezing, runny nose, or any other annoying symptom. An allergist will examine your medical history and run skin and sometimes blood tests to determine the trigger(s) of your allergies/sensitivities.
Many people are thrilled to hear there’s a definitive reason behind their misery because it means there’s a light at the end of the tunnel. Your allergist will help formulate a medication plan, as well as discuss trigger avoidance. If your symptoms don’t let up after tackling them with the doctor’s plan, you may want to discuss immunotherapy (allergy shots) with your allergist. While this course of treatment does not provide an immediate fix, it can dramatically improve your quality of life and be well worth the time and money spent.
If you are an adult and have not yet experienced allergies, embrace your good fortune! But don’t count on riding that wave of good luck forever. Your time may come, and when it does, you’ll be prepared to enlist an allergist to help you squash your symptoms and get back to feeling like yourself again.