Can You Develop Food Allergies as an Adult?

Jan 26, 2023
Can You Develop Food Allergies as an Adult?
Have you suddenly developed an allergy to pets or pollen in adulthood? Developing allergies as an adult is more commonplace than you may realize. Learn more about the signs to look out for and when to consult your doctor.

Most people with some type of allergy develop it in childhood, its symptoms persisting into adulthood. For some people, however, it’s possible to develop an allergy in adulthood suddenly. Symptoms of adult-onset allergies can be pesky and confusing, especially when you haven’t figured out what you are allergic to. The good news is we can help you figure out your allergies and the best treatment option. Allergies can develop at any age; however, adult-onset allergies are more likely to develop in your 20s and 30s. Ronda Barrak-Norris, MD and Chad W. Mayer, DO, FAAAAI, FAAP, and the Allergy & Asthma Institute of Southeast Michigan team specialize in medical care for allergies and complications that may arise from them for people living near Farmington Hills, Michigan. Here are answers to all your burning questions about developing allergies in adulthood and what to do about it. 

Allergies that develop in adulthood 

Some of the most common allergies to develop in adulthood include:

  • Food allergies: Research shows that up to 11% of American adults experience some form of allergic reaction to food. Of the 11%, nearly half developed a food allergy in adulthood. The most common allergies were shellfish, milk, peanuts, and tree nuts. It’s also possible for a person to be allergic to multiple foods simultaneously.
  • Dander allergies: Dander is shed from an animal’s skin. When you hear a person say they are allergic to cats or dogs, what they are actually allergic to is their dander. It’s common for people who aren’t used to being surrounded by animals to suddenly develop a dander allergy when they have to come in contact with animals regularly.
  • Seasonal allergies: Some allergies only come around at certain times of the year. For instance, in the spring, you are more likely to notice if you have developed a pollen allergy. If you’ve just moved to a new city or country, this could also trigger you to develop seasonal allergies. This is because your body is not used to the environment in your new home. Common signs of seasonal allergies include itchy and watery eyes, runny nose, sneezing, and coughing. 

Why do allergies develop in adulthood?

Scientists are uncertain about why people develop allergies in adulthood, especially after years of being exposed to specific allergens without any event. There are many theories about why you might suddenly develop allergies in adulthood. But first of all, let’s debunk the myth that allergies can be contracted from another person. They are not communicable, so spending time with a friend or loved one who has allergies won’t cause you to suddenly develop allergies. 

One clear thing is that some allergies can be inherited from a parent or grandparent. For instance, if one of your parents has an allergy to dust, you are at a higher risk than others of also developing an allergy. Although genetically inherited allergies are more likely to show in childhood, they can also develop later in adulthood. Another theory is that a singular severe allergic reaction in childhood can increase your risk of developing allergies as an adult. 

Relocating could also be a culprit. A new country, state, or city could trigger you to develop specific environmental allergies. If you’ve never had long-term exposure to pets and suddenly become a pet owner, you may develop an allergy to their dander. 

When to see a doctor

In most cases, allergies are nothing to worry about. Sometimes their most aggravating symptoms will even dissipate with time. Medications like antihistamines and allergy shots are most commonly prescribed to help you manage symptoms. In severe cases, you might require an epinephrine auto-injector (EpiPen). You should contact your doctor immediately if you notice severe symptoms such as hives, dizziness, swollen tongue or throat, fever, or wheezing. If you are experiencing allergy symptoms, book an appointment with us at Allergy & Asthma Institute of Southeast Michigan today. We offer solutions to all adult allergy concerns.