Most people still hold the misconception that allergies are something that only happens during our childhood and adolescent years. As such, those lucky enough not to develop allergies during this time may believe they will be allergy-free for the rest of their life. Unfortunately, this is far from the truth, as anyone can develop allergies during their later years in life, even for things they were not allergic to before.
These adult-onset allergies can arise at any time and may stem from various causes, like eating a childhood favourite snack. According to healthcare providers, such allergies can pop up out of nowhere at any time during your life. Read on as we go over why this happens and the steps to manage any allergies you may develop during adulthood.
A brief overview of allergies
Allergies are different from intolerance or food sensitivity in that they cause a response or reaction from the body’s immune system rather than causing the body to have difficulty digesting a certain food chemical. Allergens or foreign substances are what cause this immune system reaction, but while they are typically harmless, exposure to them may prompt the immune system of some people to become overly sensitive and release chemicals like histamine.
These chemicals are what drive the many allergy symptoms we know today, such as sneezing, stuffy or runny nose, watery or itchy eyes, hives, diarrhoea, nausea, and vomiting. Many food allergies, like eggs and milk, are generally outgrown in late childhood, while others, such as peanut allergies, may last for much longer. However, oral allergy syndrome is different in that it can lead to new allergies appearing during adolescence and adulthood.
The leading cause of this is that some fruits and vegetables have a similar protein structure similar to that found in protein, leading to cross reactivity. For example, some fruits and vegetables can be associated with grass pollen (melons and oranges), while others are more similar to birch tree pollen (cherries, apples, and pears). So, if someone is sensitive to the latter and eats an apple, their body may mistake it for pollen due to the protein similarities. Thankfully, the allergic reaction that occurs typically subsides on its own.
Another factor that may lead to adult-onset allergies is when a person has had a severe allergic reaction during their childhood. Experiencing even just a single episode of symptoms increases one’s risk of developing allergies later in life upon re-exposure to the same allergen at higher concentrations.
These links are easy in some cases and represent what is called the atopic march. Children who have skin conditions or food allergies are more likely to develop symptoms of seasonal allergies as they get older and then fade again, only to return in their 20s to 40s when exposed to their allergy triggers. Some of these potential adult allergy triggers include:
- Having a pet for the first time or getting another one after a long period of living without pets.
- Allergen exposure in times when your immune system function is reduced, such as when suffering an illness, undergoing pregnancy, or dealing with certain conditions that inherently compromise the immune system.
- Having little exposure to an allergen during childhood, such that it was not enough to trigger an allergic reaction until you reached adulthood.
- Relocating to a new home or workplace or many other unfamiliar environmental factors can expose you to new allergens that you have never encountered before.
How to manage adult-onset allergies
The good news is that adult-onset allergies go away with time and usually fade once again as you reach your 50s since your immune function gets reduced as you grow older and causes a less severe response to allergens. That being said, if you are concerned about the allergy symptoms you are experiencing now and want to know how to best manage them, here are three tips to find relief;
1. Determine what exactly you are allergic to
This entails paying attention to your exposures and when your symptoms arise. Alternatively, you could expedite this process and achieve more precise findings by consulting with a virtual doctor in Singapore about allergy testing. This test involves scratching your skin with various allergens in small traces to observe if your body is sensitive to them. Once you know what you are allergic to, the next step is to work with your healthcare provider to come up with a plan on how to best reduce your exposure to allergens.
2. Optimise your medications
There are many medicines that can help reduce congestion and inflammation in the nose, such as antihistamines or steroid nose sprays. Other options include eye drops for relieving dry and itchy eyes and allergy pills for alleviating symptoms.
3. Consider getting allergy shots
If you have chronic allergic rhinitis, you could consider getting injections of the allergens that trigger your symptoms to help your body gradually tolerate exposures. Do note that this is a slow process that can take anywhere from three to five years, but getting your body accustomed to the allergens and virtually putting a stop to your symptoms may be well worth it.
Developing allergies is not exclusive to our younger years, as it can also occur during adulthood. To prevent allergy symptoms from affecting your daily life, consider booking an online medical consultation and speaking to a doctor as soon as possible. With the MYCLNQ app, you can connect with many certified medical professionals and find the one best suited to help with your specific health concern. To learn more about our other services, such as private ambulance transport and supervised ART testing, don’t hesitate to contact us today.
Reference: Cleveland Clinic