Thoughout my childhood and teenage years, I lived luxuriously in the allergy-free life (think: peanut products galore, veritable baths in pet dander, and grass pollen picnics). When I hit adulthood, however, all that changed.
Spring started hitting me like an ocean wave, leading my eyes and nose to water nonstop, much to my confusion. I then had my wisdom teeth removed and learned about a penicillin allergy. And the cherry on top of the succulent cake? When I had surgery and discovered I my allergy to something in medical tape. So, though you can totally outgrow allergies in adulthood, you might also grow into a new set of ’em.
According to the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America (AAFA), allergies are, at best, nuisances—they can cause skin irritation, runny nose, clogged sinuses—but at their worst, they can be life threatening. So, how can you tell if you’ve developed a new allergy later in life, and what should you do about it?
There are two peak points for developing allergies in your lifetime: The first happens in your childhood and the second happens in your adulthood, typically in your thirties, according to allergist Dr. Tania Elliott.
Allergist Tania Elliott, MD and chief medical officer of the nationwide preventative health company, EHE, explains that there are two peak points for developing allergies in your lifetime: The first happens in your childhood and the second happens in your adulthood, typically in your thirties. She says the most common allergy you can develop as an adult is to shellfish but others include seasonal allergies, dust mites, and pets.
Dr. Elliott says that some of the most obvious ways to tell you’re developing an allergy is if you have “seasonality of symptoms during a few weeks to a month at the same time every year.” Furthermore, if you were previously feeling A-okay, but after a change in or of your environment (like moving homes, offices, or getting a new pet), you experience symptoms like itching, swelling, redness, and breathing issues, Dr. Elliott says it’s a sign something might be up.
Notice that you seem to break out in hives after eating mangoes and never did before? Or that being around your S.O.’s pup all of a sudden makes you wheeze? Dr. Elliott recommends that if you suspect that you have a new allergy to try to identify your triggers. Do they happen at certain times? In certain places or after eating certain foods? And, to confirm once and for all whether or not you have an allergy, you can visit a doctor who can perform a test.
If you develop an adult-onset environmental allergy (different than a food one) Dr. Elliott says that you’re more likely to develop additional similar allergies and should begin treatment to prevent this snowball effect from taking over your life. She says environmental allergies can be “cured” or lessened through tablets or injections of “allergen immunotherapy, which modifies your immune system so that you are no longer allergic to something.”
And, more good news: Research and technology might be to the rescue sooner than later. Dr. Elliott expects to see major advancements in food-related allergy treatments within the next five years, and by 2021 there could be a vaccine that completely eliminates seasonal allergies.
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