How Adult-Onset Allergies Differ From Childhood Allergies

It might have come as quite a surprise if you or somebody you know has developed an allergy in adulthood. That’s not such a shock to researchers, however. According to recent studies, adult-onset food allergies are becoming more and more common. 

While allergies to foods and many other substances carry over from childhood, adults can (and do) develop allergies without warning. Over 40% of adults with one or more food allergies reported developing at least one after the age of 18. Even if you’ve been eating certain foods for most of your life without any issues, an allergic reaction can suddenly strike without warning. 

The thought of being caught off guard with a new allergy can be scary and stressful, but knowing how adult-onset allergies work can help you be more prepared if and when they strike. At Monrovia Internal Medicine & Primary Care in Duarte, California, we offer diagnostic and treatment recommendations for allergies.

Adult onset can be sudden onset

The reasons why some adults will suddenly develop allergic reactions to certain foods, or to an animal or an environmental trigger like pollen, ragweed, or dust, remain mysterious. 

Allergies to foods like shellfish are among the most common, but adults can also suddenly become allergic to animals, medication, chemicals, metals and materials like leather, or other environmental irritants. Just like childhood allergies, the key to managing adult-onset allergies is to identify the triggers and to treat the symptoms.

Many allergies develop in childhood and persist through adulthood, like allergies to peanuts or tree nuts. It’s estimated that roughly 9% of children eventually outgrow tree-nut allergies. According to Johns Hopkins, the most common childhood food allergies are to peanuts, wheat, soy, milk, and eggs. Milk and egg allergies can clear up on their own over time. 

While children also experience shellfish allergies, they tend to be more common in adults. 

Adult-onset asthma

Like food allergies, asthma also typically develops in childhood, but like so many allergies, it can also strike in adulthood. The symptoms, triggers (usually allergens), and treatment for childhood and adult-onset asthma are fairly similar, depending on the type and severity of the allergy. Treatments range from lifestyle modifications designed to avoid the allergy triggers to medication and immunotherapy.

One of the major differences is that adult asthma symptoms tend to persist, and they’re more common in women than men. Children usually experience episodic asthma symptoms, which often clear up during puberty and the teen years. Asthma is often more severe in adults than in children.

Lifestyle factors and adult-onset allergies

Adults can experience allergies as either a recurrence of a childhood allergy (even if you don’t have a memory of the allergy), or they can truly strike for the first time in adulthood. Being exposed to a particular allergen for the first time in adulthood due to changing environments, getting a pet, or having a weakened immune system due to an illness or pregnancy may make some adults more susceptible to certain allergies

If you’re experiencing symptoms or have been diagnosed with adult-onset food or environmental allergies, let Dr. Ulin Sargeant help. Contact Monrovia Internal Medicine & Primary Care today by calling the office directly at 877-254-4496, or you can book your appointment online.

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