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Developing food allergies later in life

Living a life with allergies has its challenges- depending on the severity of the sensitivity, it can seem like your whole world revolves around it. And indeed, although some anaphylactic allergies, such as bee stings, may be easier to control or prevent, those that have either food or environmental allergies may find themselves being on guard against an allergic episode, becoming a matter of survival. The big question is how and why they suddenly happen- what makes some people allergic to things that others have no issues with? Unfortunately, scientists have limited knowledge in this area. They do know why they begin and why in some cases do they disappear.


Adult-onset allergies

An increasing percentage of the population is struggling with their new reality regarding their children and their allergies. The scientist is also drawing their attention to the increase of adults that are suddenly developing allergies. Not unsurprising people are demanding to know more. The authentic proposition of developing a severe allergy later on in life prompts people to search for information and a deeper understanding of possible explanations and (hopefully) prevention methods.

Dr. Kevin McGrath says, “We often see the onset in a lot of adults, around the 30s and 40s, and another group in the 50s and 60s. It can [happen] in any age group.” A study taken in October 2017 showed that almost half (45%) of adults who (currently) have allergies developed them in adulthood.

What we know so far

“That’s the thing about allergies; You’re fine, you’re fine, you’re fine ... until you’re not.” Beth Corn, MD

Some of the possible explanations given for adult-onset allergies are:

  • People who are in close contact with an animal that the person had no previous contact with, such as an adult getting a new pet
  • Relocating during retirement years exposes the body to new environmental factors such as trees and plants.
  • A person who wasn’t exposed to a sufficient enough level of the allergen during childhood but reaching that point later in life.
  • Being exposed to allergens while the immune system is in a weakened state, for example, during an illness or pregnancy.
  • Some people who seem more prone than others are those with eczema, asthma, or seasonal allergies.

Allergies post-pregnancy

During pregnancy, the body naturally immune-suppresses itself, allowing the fetus to grow in the womb. That process could change how the body naturally sensitizes to allergens. After the birth, the immune system ‘comes back online’ and looks for things to react to, which is why Dr. Quinn Hand says some women may find themselves reacting to certain foods that they could consume without an issue before the pregnancy.

Another possibility is that the adrenal system is overworking, causing a woman to react to new sensitivities. Their stress responses aren’t working correctly, and inflammatory components are making their way into the gut.  

What can you do?

Unfortunately, not much. That is not to say there is nothing you can do. Awareness and prevention is the first vital step. Doctors across the board stress the importance of noticing changes in your body and paying attention to when they occur. Ignoring symptoms will not make them go away but could delay potential treatment plans or prevention methods that could stop a more severe episode from occurring.

So no matter what age you are, if you do notice any symptoms such as a rash, red eyes, or scratchy throat after eating a certain food, during a particular time of year, or even seemingly out of nowhere- contact your local Doctor or Allergist so you can get the help you need as soon as possible.


To explore the resources used in this article, click here.

Food Allergy Awareness Week 2021
Food Allergies and Anaphylaxis in Newborns

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