Can You Develop Allergies As An Adult

Can You Develop Allergies As An Adult?

Sneezing, hives, watery eyes, swelling, itching, cramping. Whether you’ve dealt with them your whole life or they’re a new symptom, allergies are an unfortunate but very real part of life for many children and adults.

Regardless of age, a new allergy can develop anytime, leaving you wondering why your body has suddenly become averse to something that never gave you trouble before.

What Is an Allergy?

An allergic reaction is essentially the immune system’s overreaction to an otherwise non-harmful foreign substance. When the body detects an “allergen” — any substance that triggers an allergic response — your antibodies view the strange pollen, dust, animal dander, or food as a threat.

How Allergies Develop

Phase 1: Sensitization

An allergy first develops when your body comes into contact with an allergen. In some people, and under certain circumstances, this first meeting prompts the immune system to create immunoglobulin E (IgE) antibodies. This process is called “sensitization.” Essentially, this is how the antibodies “take note” of possible threats. The IgE is typically centralized in the area where it is more likely to come into contact with the allergen, including the respiratory system, the skin, or the gastrointestinal tract. Once sensitized, these antibodies will be on the lookout for the same allergen in the future.

Phase 2: Exposure

If the allergen comes into contact with your sensitized immune system, your antibodies view the allergen the same way they might view a harmful microbe. So, they act accordingly and alert the body’s mast cells to the incoming threat. The mast cells then release histamine, a chemical that mounts the full immune response. In normal circumstances, this response triggers various bodily symptoms that aid in fighting harmful germs and infections. These symptoms include:
  • Increased blood flow in the affected area to get more immune cells to the area enlisted in the fight.
  • Increased mucus production to trap microbes and keep them out of airways.
  • Watery eyes to flush out contaminants.
However, in an allergic response, there is no germ to fight. This causes the exposure site to become irritated and, in some cases, affects the body’s main functions in dangerous ways.
Your Eyes with and without allergies

When Do Allergies Usually Develop?

Though allergies can develop at just about any age, in most cases, they will appear early in childhood, often after age 2. It’s also not unusual for childhood allergies to lessen or disappear as children age into adulthood and gain more exposure and tolerance to common allergens like grains, eggs, or milk. However, the opposite can also happen, where new allergies emerge in adulthood, often appearing in a person’s 20s or 30s.

Common Allergy Development in Adults

Though any substance can become an allergen if it reacts with the wrong person’s immune system, some substances are more likely to provoke allergic reactions. These are some of the most common allergies reported in adults.

Seasonal Allergies (Most Common)

As seasons change, different plants and fungi become more active, producing large amounts of pollen or spores. This is why many people suffer from seasonal allergies at different times of the year. Some of the most common seasonal allergies are caused by tree pollen in early spring, grass pollen in June and July, and ragweed and mold in the fall.

Food Allergies

According to the Journal of the American Medical Association, almost 11% of American adults have some type of allergic reaction to particular foods. The most common foods to provoke allergic reactions are dairy, eggs, tree nuts, peanuts, shellfish, wheat, soy, and certain types of fish.

Pet Allergies

With about 70% of households in the US owning a pet of some kind, it’s no surprise that pet-related allergies are high on the list. Though pets bring many other mental and physical health advantages, their dander (skin flakes), saliva, and urine can all trigger allergies for those with susceptible immune systems.

Why Do Allergies Develop in Adulthood?

Some adults develop allergies later in life, so the exact cause is hard to pin down and can vary from person to person. However, researchers have observed many different triggers that are related to adult-onset allergies.

  • Moving to a new home or starting a new job. The change of location may expose you to new allergens that you didn’t previously have contact with.
  • Little to no exposure to certain allergens in childhood. If an allergen has never been present in your life at levels high enough to cause a reaction, it might be overwhelming if you suddenly come into contact with it at high concentrations.
  • Exposure when the immune system is compromised. If you are already sick and your immune system is fighting an infection, exposure to an allergen during this time can confuse the immune system resulting in allergic sensitization. The same can happen when individuals are pregnant or dealing with any other condition that impairs immunity.
  • Getting a new pet. Though it’s likely a happy moment to bring your new friend home, it’s possible for those who have never had a pet before (or who haven’t had a pet for a long time) to experience allergies suddenly.

What To Do If You Think You’ve Developed an Allergy

It’s always best to be sure if you’re experiencing an allergic reaction or if another condition can explain your symptoms. Though treating symptoms alone can provide temporary relief, figuring out the root of your problems will allow you and your doctor to treat your ailments more effectively and make course corrections for your health.

Additionally, though many are aware that hay fever and asthma are linked to seasonal allergies, many other common ailments — such as migraines — might be caused by an unknown allergic reaction in some cases.

If you expect that you’re experiencing allergy symptoms, we urge you to get tested through an ImmunoLabs allergy panel to get to the bottom of your symptoms. These tests help specify any necessary treatment or lifestyle changes and empower you to make the right choices for your health and body.

Can Allergies Go Away?

It doesn’t happen in every case, but many patients have observed that their allergies lessen or go away entirely as they age.

Immune function changes and develops throughout your life, so some childhood allergies might reduce or disappear altogether in the teen years or adulthood.

Around 50, most people experience a reduction in their immune system’s activity, so people in this age group and beyond might also notice that allergic reactions are less intense than when they were younger.

Can You Prevent Allergy Development?

While a person’s susceptibility to allergies is largely genetic, their likelihood of developing an allergy is mainly dependent on various factors within their environment during childhood. If you have children, here are some ways you can help them develop a healthy immune system and prevent allergies from developing.

Natural Childbirth (When Possible)

Though the method of childbirth is not always your choice, if a C-section is not medically necessary in your case, it should be avoided. In addition to other risks for both the child and the parent, C-sections don’t allow the baby to be exposed to the microorganisms of the birth canal, which are theorized to play an important part in the development of the baby’s developing immune system.

Breastfeeding or Hydrolysed Formula

Breastfeeding or a hydrolyzed baby formula are the best options for feeding infants. Both provide necessary nutrients for a growing baby and help develop the immune system.

Variety and Quality of Baby Food

Once you introduce baby foods, it’s recommended that babies are given a wide variety of high-quality foods. This variety not only gives them a diverse palette of nutrition but also exposes their immune systems early on to potentially allergenic foods like eggs, wheat, and fish.


Most pets tend to be a net positive for children’s immune systems. Pets in the home don’t seem to influence whether or not a child develops allergies. That being said, cats, in particular, can raise the risk of atopic dermatitis if your child is genetically predisposed.

Avoiding Smoking

Secondhand smoke has a variety of risk factors, one of them being a higher likelihood of allergies and asthma. Avoid smoking or being around secondhand smoke once you are pregnant.

Avoiding Mold and Indoor Air Pollution

If you can, keep your home free of mold and be careful when painting or introducing new furniture into the house. Mold spores and the fumes from paint and new upholstery can trigger allergies and asthma, so keep your home dry and well-ventilated and allow fresh paint and new furniture to air out with good ventilation.

Best Treatment Options

There are a variety of treatments for allergies.


Over-the-counter treatments are often enough to help mild to moderate symptoms. So, antihistamine treatments with cetirizine or diphenhydramine can be beneficial.


Immunotherapy is a treatment that gradually exposes your immune system to your allergic triggers over a more extended period of time. Immunotherapy can be administered in a couple of different methods. One method of immunotherapy is a series of regular injections. The same effect can be achieved in the form of SubLingual ImmunoTherapy (SLIT), where oral drops of increasing strength of allergen content are given under the tongue.

Epinephrine Auto-Injectors (EpiPen)

For severe allergies, it’s vital to have an emergency backup plan if you accidentally come into contact with a trigger. EpiPens should be kept nearby if you have an allergy that can potentially send you into anaphylaxis.

When a Reaction is an Emergency

See a doctor or go to an emergency department immediately if an allergic reaction results in any of the following symptoms:

  • Dizziness
  • Sudden hives or a rash
  • Swelling of the face, tongue, and/or throat
  • Gastrointestinal problems like abdominal cramps, vomiting, or diarrhea
  • Disorientation or confusion
  • Fever
  • Seizures
  • Anaphylaxis (low blood pressure, wheezing, and swelling or closing up of the throat)
  • Any loss of consciousness

Learn More About Your Own Health

Allergies can appear at any point in a person’s life. While they are often just a nuisance, they can also be fatal if left untreated. If you’re experiencing any new allergic symptoms or want to take control of your current symptoms, order an Immuno Labs test today to learn more about your unique health needs.

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