There is still a lot of mystery surrounding allergies. How do allergies develop? Why do some people develop allergies later in life?
Less than a decade ago, the World Allergy Organization put out a warning that allergies were on the rise. They were quickly becoming a public health concern.
Allergic diseases include a wide spectrum of diseases. These include life-threatening anaphylaxis to forms of asthma to eczema and eosinophilic disorders. There are also a variety of types of allergies one can suffer from including food, insect, drugs, hay fever, and eye allergies.
About 300 million people suffer from asthma. Food allergies affect between 200-250 million people worldwide. One in ten people has drug allergies. 400 million people suffer from rhinitis and roughly 50 million Americans have allergies.
Moreover, one person can develop different allergic diseases in their lifetime. This can cause a significant impact on the quality of life.
How Allergies Develop
Allergies develop when the immune system reacts to a foreign substance. The immune system perceives this particular substance, known as an allergen, even though it’s harmless. For example pollen, pet dander, peanuts, or a chemical from cosmetics.
When someone has an allergy, the immune system will react with an attack on the substance. It produces antibodies to attack the allergen, which leads to allergic reactions and inflammation. This inflammation can affect the airways, nose, skin, and eyes.
The purpose of the immune system is to protect us from dangerous bacteria, viruses, and fungi. It’s is also trained to destroy cancerous cells. Various cells and organs make up this very complex system.
The organs in the immune system are known as lymphoid organs. They play important roles in growth and development and are responsible for releasing white blood cells. These lymphoid organs include:
- Adenoid glands
- Blood vessels
- Lymphatic system
- Lymph nodes
- Bone marrow
- Peyer’s Patches (found in the small intestine)
These organs are essential to our health, growth, and development as humans.
The Immune System’s Response to Allergies
There are many substances that have the potential to become allergens. You can inhale or ingest them while some can enter through your skin.
In cases of allergic reactions like hay fever, hives, and forms of asthma, the immune system releases antibodies called immunoglobulin E, or IgE. IgE antibodies are specific to a certain allergen and react only when exposed to that antigen. For example, a person may be allergic to certain plant pollen, but not to another.
When the body first comes in contact with an allergen, it releases a significant amount of IgE. Upon second exposure to the same allergen, you may experience an allergic reaction. The symptoms of the reaction can include a runny, stuffy nose, watery and swollen eyes, sneezing, coughing, and itchy skin.
The severity of the symptoms varies from no symptoms to life-threatening anaphylaxis. It depends on the type of allergy, the amount of exposure to the allergen, and how the immune system responds to that substance.
Allergies are more common in children. The most common allergies in children are food, like peanuts and shellfish, and stings. Some children do outgrow these allergies and don’t experience symptoms later in life.
Although, some people may develop allergies later in life instead of outgrowing them.
How Do Allergies Develop Later in Life?
Allergies can affect anyone, regardless of age or gender. Allergic reactions may come back after many years of remission or be new altogether.
Environmental pollutants, hormones, stress, smoke, perfume, or chemicals may play a role in the development of allergies later in life. They can also impact the severity of the symptoms. Several decades ago, these synthetic chemicals were not available. Today, we expose ourselves to hundreds of them daily.
According to Mayo Clinic experts, the exact reason some people develop allergies later in life is unknown. A common instance of allergy development later in life is when a person moves from one geographical location to another. Exposing yourself to new plants and pollens can trigger underlying allergies.
Severe Symptoms of Life-Threatening Allergies
Anaphylactic shock, or anaphylaxis, is a severe reaction that requires medical emergency treatment. Symptoms typically start within minutes to an hour after exposure to an allergen. This reaction causes inflammation affecting the throat and tongue, which makes it hard to breathe.
Other symptoms of anaphylaxis include:
- Sudden drop in blood pressure
- Severe vomiting
- Abnormal heartrate
- Tightness of the chest
- Loss of consciousness
- Swelling of the throat and tongue
- Difficulty breathing
Many allergens can cause anaphylactic shock including foods, certain drugs, insect venom, and other chemicals. Individuals who have a history of anaphylaxis should have an epinephrine shot available.
What to Do If You Develop Allergies Later in Life
If you’ve developed allergies later in life, you may be wondering what’s next. What does this mean for your lifestyle?
There are a few things you can do to avoid reactions without disrupting your life too much. You can also remedy the symptoms in case you do come in contact with the allergen.
Prevention is Key
Avoid exposure to the allergen that gives you a reaction. To identify specific allergens, consult a doctor or professional allergist.
Work with Your Doctor
Talk to your doctor about your symptoms and possible allergy. Together, you can work out a treatment option. Your doctor will also educate you more about your newly developed allergy and how to manage symptoms.
Live a Healthy Lifestyle
Leading a healthy lifestyle supports your immune system to function at its best. Practice stress management techniques like yoga and meditation. Avoid consuming processed foods and eat a healthy diet.
Make sure to also be active throughout the day and get plenty of sleep.
Nobody enjoys having allergies, especially if the allergies develop later in life. Don’t let this change your whole routines though!
The exact cause of late-stage developing allergies is unknown. Although, they tend to show up when a person moves to another region as they’re exposed to new pollens. Sometimes the body simply decides a substance is dangerous for no reason.
If you learn to avoid these substances and manage symptoms, your life won’t change too much.