Can You Develop Allergies in Adulthood?

January 11, 2023

Many patients ask, “Can You Develop Allergies in Adulthood?” The answer is, yes. Allergies can occur at any stage of your life and can be complicated to understand. If you are an adult living with allergies, our team wants to help you take control of your symptoms to minimize the impact they have on your daily life.

How allergies develop

Allergens develop in two phases.

Phase 1

First, your immune system responds to certain substances by creating antibodies called immunoglobulin E (IgE). This part is called sensitization.

Depending on what kind of allergy you have, such as pollen or food, these antibodies are localized in your airways — including your nose, mouth, throat, windpipe, and lungs — your gastrointestinal (GI) tract, and your skin.

Phase 2

If you’re exposed to that allergen again, your body releases inflammatory substances, including the chemical histamine. This causes blood vessels to dilate, mucus to form, skin to itch, and airway tissues to swell up.

This allergic reaction is meant to stop allergens from getting in and to fight off any irritation or infection that might be caused by the allergens that do get in. Essentially, you can think of allergies as an overreaction to those allergens.

From then on, your body responds similarly when it’s exposed to that allergen in the future. For mild airborne allergies, you might experience symptoms of puffy eyes, stuffy nose, and itchy throat. And for severe allergies, you might have hives, diarrhea, and trouble breathing.

When allergies typically develop

Most people remember first getting allergy symptoms at a young age — about 1 in 5 kids have some kind of allergy or asthma.

Many people outgrow their allergies by their 20s and 30s, as they become tolerant to their allergens, especially food allergens such as milk, eggs, and grains.

But it’s possible to develop an allergy at any point in your life. You may even become allergic to something that you had no allergy to before.

It isn’t clear why some allergies develop in adulthood, especially by one’s 20s or 30s.

Let’s get into how and why you can develop an allergy later in life, how you can treat a new allergy, and whether you can expect a new allergy or an existing one to go away with time.

Common adult allergies

Seasonal allergies: The most commonly developed adult-onset allergies are seasonal. Pollen, ragweed, and other plant allergens spike at certain times of the year, usually the spring or fall.

Pet allergies: Have a feline or canine friend? Being constantly exposed to their dander, or skin flakes that slough off and become airborne, and chemicals from urine and saliva that get on dander can cause you to develop an allergy.

Food allergies: Nearly 11 percent of adultsTrusted Source in the United States have some type of food allergy, and nearly half of them report first noticing symptoms during adulthood, especially to certain kinds of fishTrusted Source.

Other common food allergens in adults are peanuts and tree nuts and fruit and vegetable pollen.

Many children develop food allergies and often have less and less severe symptoms as they get older.

Why does this happen?

It isn’t exactly clear why allergies might develop in adulthood.

Researchers believe that a severe allergic reaction during childhoodTrusted Source, even a single episode of symptoms, can increase your likelihood of developing allergies as an adult when you’re re-exposed to that allergen at higher levels.

In some cases, these links are easy to see and represent what is known as the atopic march. Children who have food allergies or skin conditions like eczema may develop symptoms of seasonal allergies, like sneezing, itching, and sore throats, as they get older.

Then, symptoms fade for a while. They may return in your 20s, 30s, and 40s when you’re exposed to an allergy trigger. Possible adult allergy triggers can include:

Allergen exposure when your immune system function is reduced. This happens when you’re sick, pregnant, or have a condition that compromises your immune system.

Having little exposure to an allergen as a child. You may not have been exposed to high enough levels to trigger a reaction until adulthood.

Relocating to a new home or workplace with new allergens. This could include plants and trees that you weren’t exposed to before.

Having a pet for the first time. Research suggests this can also happen after a long period of having no pets.

Can allergies go away with time? 

The short answer is yes.

Even if you develop allergies as an adult, you may notice they start to fade again when you reach your 50s and beyond.

This is because your immune function is reduced as you get older, so the immune response to allergens also becomes less severe.

Some allergies you have as a child may also go away when you’re a teen and well into your adulthood, perhaps making only a few appearances throughout your life until they disappear permanently.

Can You Develop Allergies in Adulthood? Yes and our team can help you to take control of your health, schedule an appointment with Supreme Medical Center today.

Supreme Medical Center in Houston

When it comes to getting better fast, the best thing you can do is schedule an appointment with your physician at the first sign of illness. At Supreme Medical Center our doctors work with you to treat your symptoms and get you back to feeling like yourself in no time.


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