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How Childhood Allergies Differ from Adult-Onset Allergies

It may surprise you to know that whether you’re 6 or 66, you can develop allergies. That’s because allergies can strike at any age. This means you’re not out of the woods if you reach adulthood and haven’t developed any allergies. 

Here at Riviera Allergy Medical Center, allergy and immunology specialist Ulrike Ziegner, MD, diagnoses allergies and helps her patients manage the symptoms. While eagle-eyed parents are often on the lookout for symptoms of allergies in their children, adult-onset allergies may sneak past your awareness. 

To help you spot the signs and know when to seek help from an allergist, we’ve put together some helpful information about the difference between childhood and adult-onset allergies. 

Childhood allergies more common, but adult-onset rising

Allergies are more common in childhood, but they’re increasingly arising for the first time in adulthood. By reliable estimates, over 50 million Americans have allergies, and many of them are children. 

Most people who have allergies tend to develop them while growing up, but allergies can certainly strike adults too. Age of onset is one difference between childhood and adult allergies. 

Adult-onset allergies tend to strike adults when they reach their 30s and 40s. While first-time allergies are less common once you reach your 50s, we are seeing a slight increase in adult-onset allergies in this group also. 

Types of allergies that strike children differ from adults

Asthma, eczema, allergic rhinitis, and food allergies are the most common allergic diseases that typically strike in childhood. 

Adults are more likely to develop sensitivity to medicine and things in their environment that irritate the skin and respiratory system. However, any type of allergy can strike for the first time in adulthood, including food allergies. 

Adult-onset allergies are often more severe than childhood allergies

Any allergic reaction can be severe. However, allergies that develop in childhood are often milder and more easy to control than adult-onset allergies. Perhaps due to differences in immune system development, first-time allergies in adults often cause more prominent, troublesome symptoms. 

Adults may require a more comprehensive treatment plan to keep their allergy symptoms from significantly interfering with their quality of life. 

Why are adults at risk of first-time allergies?

By the time you reach adulthood, you’ve been exposed to common allergens like pollen and dust mites all of your life. That makes it challenging to pin down exactly why substances that weren’t causing a problem before have become an issue. 

Perhaps you’ve always enjoyed the outdoors, but seemingly out of the blue you have developed an allergy to pollen or weeds. The exact reason why allergies can strike adults for the first time remains a mystery. 

However, as you age, changes to the way your immune system responds contributes to late-onset allergy development. 

Sometimes, though, you may have had allergies in childhood that went undiagnosed and then became more severe in adulthood, resulting in a first-time diagnosis. 

Genes may also increase the likelihood of developing adult-onset allergies. If you have a family history of allergies, you’re at an increased risk of developing them too, even in adulthood.

Is it possible to prevent adult-onset allergies?

The prime time for allergy development is 5-16 years old. After that your risk diminishes until your 30s. Currently, there’s no way to prevent adult-onset allergies. The best thing you can do is learn to recognize the symptoms and seek an accurate diagnosis. 

The good news is, once diagnosed, allergies are treatable. Dr. Ziegner can create an individualized treatment plan to manage your allergies so your symptoms don’t make you feel miserable. 

Left untreated, an allergy can have a major impact on how you feel and function day-to-day. 

Help for childhood and adult-onset allergies

Whether allergies strike in childhood or as an adult, you can get your symptoms under control and get the relief you need. 

To learn more about how we diagnose and treat allergies, schedule an appointment with Dr. Ziegner by calling the Redondo Beach office. Our knowledgeable team can answer your questions and help you get on the road to effective allergy management. 

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