The Difference Between Childhood and Adult-Onset Allergies

Whether you’ve been plagued by allergies since childhood or your sneezing, watery eyes, and scratchy throat are something new, allergies can interfere with your life and even shut you down when everyone else is having a good time. 

Allergic reactions to triggers like animal dander, pollen, and even food can occur at any age. While childhood allergies are fairly common, adult-onset allergies can come on as a reaction to a weakened immune system, acquiring a pet, or moving to a new area of the country.

The term “adult-onset allergies” is often misleading. In most cases, adults are experiencing a recurrence of an allergic reaction they probably had in childhood. More than 50 million people in the United States suffer from some form of allergy. The most intense allergies affect children between ages 5 and 16. For most of them, a reprieve occurs as they approach adulthood. After a decade or two, allergies may return.

If you or a family member suffer from allergies or notice increasing severity of your allergic reactions, know that the team at Omar Aref, MD in Plant City, Florida, can provide you with excellent care. Here is a brief guide to allergies.

Allergic reactions

Both adult-onset allergies and those experienced in childhood are rooted in the immune system. Your body mistakenly recognizes an allergen as an invader, and your immune system begins its production immunoglobulin E, an antibody that fights off the offender. This antibody causes certain chemicals to be released, among them histamines.

Histamines cause the reaction people associate with seasonal, pet, dust, and other common allergies. Your nose begins to run, your eyes water, and your throat gets scratchy when you encounter these triggers.

Other allergy symptoms may include a rash, hives, swelling, and gastrointestinal issues. These are often associated with a food allergy or an allergic reaction to something ingested (such as a medication) or topical (such as latex).

Childhood allergies are especially dangerous

In children, allergies tend to be a little more severe, especially food allergies. As the body reacts, the signs may not be immediately visible to parents, teachers, or caregivers, and the reaction can progress to a potentially life-threatening condition known as anaphylaxis.

Anaphylactic shock can occur within minutes to hours after exposure to the offending allergen.  This is most common with food allergies, but can also occur with allergies to insect bites, stings, and venom. If your child has these types of allergies, it’s wise to invest in an epinephrine auto-injector to have on hand for emergencies.

Children with seasonal allergies, or hay fever, are at a higher risk for developing asthma. Allergies and asthma often occur simultaneously, and exposure to certain allergens can trigger an asthma attack.

If your child’s skin and food allergies seem to be getting worse, or are affecting their breathing, contact Omar Aref, MD immediately, or go to the ER.

Adult-onset allergies

Adults typically can better discern an allergic reaction and take appropriate action. If you’ve never experienced an allergic reaction, such as hay fever, it’s best to seek a diagnosis. Your doctor can help you determine your allergy triggers and understand the best way to avoid them, as well as treat your symptoms.

For adults who suddenly find they’re allergic to certain foods, it’s best to take your allergy seriously and seek medical help. A food-related, or substance-related allergy can be life-threatening.

Foods and certain other triggers can be found in places you wouldn’t expect. Shellfish, nuts, gluten, latex derivatives, and similar allergy triggers are found in everything from household goods to snack foods and soft drinks. Always read labels.

Help for allergies

Allergies are no fun, no matter when they appear. If your allergies are getting you down or you’ve grown weary of seeing your little one suffer, contact Omar Aref, MD. Dr. Aref and his compassionate team work with you to find the best way to address all types of allergies. Contact us today either by phone or through our online appointment form, and start living your life to the fullest.

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