Can You Develop Food Allergies as an Adult?

Can You Develop Food Allergies as an Adult?

According to the American College of Allergy, Asthma, & Immunology, 50 million Americans suffer from some allergy, and 4% of those are food allergies in adults. Food allergies often affect babies and children, but they can pop up at any point in your life. 

When you're dealing with uncomfortable food allergy symptoms, you can count on the team at Beverly Hills Allergy, with locations in Beverly Hills and Glendale, California. Dr. Sherwin Hariri can help you understand your food allergy and provide the treatment you need.

Signs of a food allergy

A food allergy happens when your immune system mistakenly reacts to a particular food, triggering a response to protect you even though the food isn't a threat to your body. Your immune system can't differentiate the food ingredient from a virus or infection.

When your body reacts to a food allergy, you can experience several moderate to severe symptoms, including:

Anaphylaxis is an extreme and potentially life-threatening sign of a food allergy. The symptoms include constriction of your airways, shock, and even a coma. Anaphylaxis is a medical emergency that requires immediate medical treatment.

Can you develop food allergies in adulthood?

Food allergies typically affect children, and some kids outgrow these allergies. But it's not uncommon to develop food allergies in adulthood. 

It's important to understand that a food allergy is different from a food intolerance. An allergy involves your immune system, whereas a food intolerance affects your gastrointestinal system.

An allergy occurs in two separate steps. In the first step, known as sensitization, your body creates antibodies to substances, such as a food ingredient, that it responds to negatively. These antibodies are called immunoglobulin E.

The second step happens when you're exposed to that specific food or allergen again. When your immune system recognizes that allergen, your body releases histamine and exerts an inflammatory response to protect you.

When your body releases histamine, your airways begin to swell and produce mucus, and you may feel itchy or experience hives. You'll continue to experience this every time you're exposed to that specific food.

It's not entirely understood why you develop a food allergy as an adult when you've eaten that food before without any issues. One theory is that the response develops when you're exposed to a particular food while your immune system is compromised, such as when you're pregnant or sick.

It also could be that you weren’t exposed to the type of food enough when you were younger but now eat it regularly as an adult. With limited exposure as a child, you might only have the reaction once you're an adult.

What are common food allergies?

Children and adults are often allergic to the same types of foods, as they're some of the most common parts of your diet. Nine specific kinds of foods are responsible for up to 90% of serious allergic reactions:

In adults, shellfish, tree nuts, and fish are the more common foods that bring about an allergic response. However, you can become allergic to just about any food as an adult if your immune system deems it dangerous.

Expert treatment for food allergies

As an adult, it’s important that you seek help when you think you have a food allergy. The longer you let the problem go, the more at risk you are for serious symptoms and complications.

If you're dealing with adult-onset food allergies, don't hesitate to call the Beverly Hills Allergy team today at the location convenient to you, or request a consultation with Dr. Hariri through this website.