Can you develop new allergies as an adult? You may find yourself wondering that, if all of a sudden your pet is causing your eyes to itch or you can’t stop sneezing outdoors. While you never had these issues as a child growing up, they’ve now taken you by surprise as an adult. Around 1 in 5 kids have some type of allergy, and most will outgrow these allergies by their 20s and 30s as their bodies become tolerant to their allergies. But for a lucky amount, the opposite occurs.

Why does this happen?

By definition an allergy is a reaction by your body towards a generally harmless foreign substance that activates your immune system. Immune systems change as we age, which makes it possible to develop an allergy to a substance, or an environmental allergen when you’re older. Many times you weren’t exposed as a child, but have been as an adult.  If you weren’t tested for food allergies, you may have always had an allergen but never ate that food until later in life, causing a “new” reaction. 

There is not a clear explanation for why some allergies develop in adulthood for people. It is believed that a single severe allergic reaction as a child can increase your likelihood of developing allergies as an adult if you become exposed to that same allergen at a higher level.

Other possible adult allergies explanations include:

  • Exposure to an allergen while your immune system function is reduced, such as during an illness, pregnancy or immunocompromised condition.
  • Relocation to a new home or workplace, exposing you to new environmental allergens.
  • Becoming a pet owner for the first time. Even if you had pets as a child with zero issue, a long period with zero pet exposure can make you vulnerable when reintroduced to pet dander and other chemicals.
  • Climate change.  This consistent change to the environment is causing a longer and more severe pollen season. Ragweed season was stable for 40 years, but has increased by ten days in ten years, with much higher levels.  People who always had zero to mild pollen allergies may not have started to experience increased symptoms until the more recent and intense allergy seasons.  The increase in pollen concentrations means people are having seasonal allergy reactions for the first time in adulthood. 

Allergies are irritating but treatable at any age. If you are experiencing new symptoms as an adult, you may want to try a skin test for diagnosis. At Premier Allergy, Asthma and Sinus Care we perform a comprehensive, mostly needle-free skin test panel consisting of environmental and food allergens. Contact us today to schedule a visit.