Allergies are your bodily response to a foreign substance, such as pollen grain or pet dander. It is your immune system activating to protect your body and fight off the foreign substance.
Most people get allergy symptoms at a young age, with one in five kids developing asthma or an allergy. Many of these people outgrow their allergies in adulthood as they become tolerant to the allergens, especially for food allergens like eggs, grains, and milk.
Still, it’s highly possible for adults to develop allergies at a later point in their lives. That means you might suddenly be allergic to something you weren’t allergic to before. While it remains unclear why those in their 20s or 30s develop new allergies, there is some insight into this phenomenon.
How Allergies Develop
Allergies usually develop in two phases, as detailed below:
1. Phase One
Your immune system responds to a particular substance by creating antibodies called immunoglobulin E (IgE).
Then, depending on the allergy you have, these antibodies will localize in your airways, including your mouth, windpipe, throat, nose, lungs, and skin.
2. Phase Two
Suppose you get exposed to the same allergen. In that case, your body produces inflammatory substances, such as the chemical histamine, causing your blood vessels to dilate, your skin to itch, your airway tissues to swell up, and some mucus to form.
That is the allergic reaction, and its primary goal is to stop allergens from entering your body. It aims to fight off any irritation and infection that could be caused by allergens that get in. In a basic sense, allergies are an overreaction to allergens.
For mild airborne allergies, the symptoms may present as puffy eyes, stuffy nose, and itchy throat. Severe allergies can lead to hives, diarrhea, and trouble breathing. Moreover, your body will have the same response when exposed to allergens in the future.
Why Do Allergies Occur Later in Life?
Researchers believe that a severe allergic reaction in childhood or even a single episode of symptoms increases a person’s chances of developing allergies as an adult. That is when they’re re-exposed to the same allergen at higher levels.
In most cases, the link is easy to pinpoint. It is called the atopic march. Children with food allergies and skin conditions may develop symptoms of seasonal allergies like sneezing, itching, and sore throats. These symptoms may fade for a while but resurface when exposed to an allergy trigger in their adult lives. Below are some adult allergy triggers:
- Allergen exposure with reduced immune system function
- Having little exposure to an allergen during childhood
- Relocating to a new area with new allergens
- Having a pet for the first time
As allergies develop in adult life, they, too, can fade in time. Even when you develop new allergies in your 20s or 30s, you might notice that they disappear again when you reach your 50s or 60s. That change is due to your immune function reducing as you get older, producing a less severe immune response to allergens.
With that said, some allergies you had as a child may also fade in your teens or adulthood. They may only occur every once in a while in your life until they disappear entirely.
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