How Are Childhood Allergies Different from Adult Allergies?

Most people find out they have any allergy when they’re children. However, that’s no reason to assume you’re out of the woods if you’ve made it to adulthood without developing allergy symptoms. Adults aren’t immune to first-time allergies. 

The immune system you’re born with can change, and while we don’t know the exact mechanism, we do know that adult-onset allergies are increasing.

At Riviera Allergy Medical Center, allergy specialist Dr. Ulrike Ziegner treats allergies in adults and children of all ages. Other than the age of onset, of course, there isn’t much difference between adult and childhood allergies. The symptoms and treatment are identical.

Children and allergies

From birth, your immune system plays a vital role in your response to normally harmless substances. Any child can develop allergies, but they’re more common in children who have a family history of allergies. Children typically develop allergies between the ages of 5 and 16.

Children with close family members who have allergies are more likely to have allergies themselves. If you’re an adult with allergies, there’s a 25% chance your child will have them, too. That number goes up to 50% when both partners have allergies. Identifying and treating allergies early can significantly improve your child’s quality of life.

Most common childhood allergies

It’s possible to develop an allergy to virtually any substance, but the most common allergies we see in children are:

Symptoms to look out for are:

Adults and allergies

You’d think there’s no way for you to wake up one day and have an allergy, but you’d be wrong. We’ve had adult patients visit our office and tell us they’ve never had a problem with pollen previously but now they’re sneezing constantly. People who have spent their lives enjoying springtime blooms or certain foods find themselves dealing with allergy symptoms instead. 

First-time allergies in adults tend to strike in the 30s and 40s. We’re still learning why allergies develop in adults who have no history of allergy symptoms, but it likely has a lot to do with changes to your immune system as you age.

Common adult-onset allergies

Like children, adults can develop an allergy to any substance. However, we find that first-time food and seasonal allergies are surprisingly common. You’re less likely to develop skin allergies in adulthood, but it does happen occasionally

Food allergies in adults

It may surprise you to know that nearly half of food allergies are diagnosed in adulthood. There’s this idea that food allergies develop in childhood, but we’re here to raise awareness that some 45% of adults with food allergies develop them in adulthood. What’s more, we see adult food allergies rising across all ethnic groups.

What foods are adults allergic to? Seafood, nuts, yeast, and sesame are the most common food allergies that strike in adulthood. During childhood, allergies to milk and peanuts are the most common. Other common food allergens in children and adults are soy, tree nuts, eggs, and wheat.  

This is important to know since shellfish, tree nuts and peanuts are associated with more serious allergic reactions like angioedema and anaphylaxis, both of which can be life-threatening.

How we diagnose allergies

The good news is that allergies are often simple to diagnose. Dr. Ziegner can pinpoint the cause of your allergy symptoms with a skin test, and she may order additional tests, such as blood tests to confirm a suspected allergy. We use insight from these tests, along with a detailed medical and symptom history, to make a diagnosis.

If you suspect that you have a food allergy, it’s helpful to record your daily diet and symptoms in a journal for a few weeks before your appointment.

You can get relief from allergies that are making you miserable. Scheduling an appointment with an allergist is the first step to gaining control of your allergies. 

To learn more about how we diagnose and treat allergies, schedule an appointment with Dr. Ziegner by calling our Redondo Beach, California, office. You can also send us a message here on our website or request an appointment online. We’re ready to guide you through effective allergy management.  

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