Can You Develop Food Allergies as an Adult?

misc image

Can You Develop Food Allergies as an Adult?

Almost 6% of Americans have a food allergy — an immune system reaction to proteins in a particular food. While food allergies are more common in kids, you can develop one as an adult. You could even outgrow an allergy you had as an infant and form another food allergy in your 20s or beyond.

With her team in Valencia, California, Dr. Maricar Cutillar-Garcia applies her 26 years of experience to treating food allergies using the latest evidence-based therapies.

Let’s examine this condition, including signs and other factors.

Signs of a food allergy

Food allergies can present in many ways, with varying degrees of severity. After eating a food you’re allergic you could experience:

  • Abdominal pain
  • Coughing or wheezing
  • Diarrhea
  • Dizziness
  • Facial swelling
  • Itchy skin or a rash
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Sneezing or congestion

You could also develop something called oral allergy syndrome, which causes itchiness in your mouth or throat after eating raw produce. 

While allergy symptoms can present immediately after eating a problematic food, they may take several days to appear.

Why food allergies develop in adulthood

It’s challenging to know the exact reason behind an adult food allergy. That said, several factors may play a role. For example, suppose you’ve gone years without regularly eating a particular food. In that case, you might develop an allergy because of reduced desensitization. 

No longer used to the food, your body may no longer recognize it as safe. While such an allergy could appear gradually, some people develop a sudden dairy allergy after avoiding milk. 

Environmental factors may also contribute to adult-onset allergies. For example, soy allergies have been linked with pollen exposure. Tick bites have been known to trigger food allergies as well. While relatively rare, bites from the Lone Star tick can cause a red meat allergy.

Food allergy culprits 

While almost any food can fuel an allergy, about 90% of food allergies involve eggs, dairy products, fish or shellfish, wheat, peanuts, sesame, or soy. Food allergies that most often develop in adulthood include fish, shellfish, peanuts, and tree nuts.

You can also develop a food intolerance, which is less severe but still bothersome. Lactose intolerance is the most common form and causes digestive symptoms after consuming the sugar naturally occurring in dairy products.

Food allergy treatment for adults

If you suspect you’re dealing with a food allergy, Dr. Cutillar-Garcia will conduct an exam, discuss your medical history and eating habits, and run any needed tests. If it turns out you are allergic to a food, avoiding it is the primary treatment. You might also receive epinephrine, an injectable medication, in case you inadvertently consume the allergen.

To learn more about food allergies in adults or get the care you need, call our office or book an appointment through our website today.