When do allergies develop?

Every allergy comes with different timing and symptoms and triggers, but they all have one thing in common: they’re no fun. If your child isn’t born with allergies, does that mean they are off the hook? Because allergies are different in every person, it’s difficult to say exactly when they develop. They’re slightly more common in children than adults, but it’s still possible to develop an allergy later in life.

Why do allergies happen?

The reason people have allergies is that their immune systems notice a normal substance (like pollen or peanuts), and decide that it’s dangerous. For that person, that substance is an allergen that triggers a reaction in the immune system: an allergic reaction. So if you’re allergic to peanuts, your immune system thinks peanuts are dangerous, therefore making them dangerous to you.

When do allergies develop?

So, some allergies can be deadly, and others are just annoying. But when do you get them?

Allergies are most common in children, which means that they can actually disappear as they grow older. Five to ten percent of children are estimated to have some kind of food sensitivity or allergy, and this peaks around age 1. On the other hand, other children might not experience symptoms for a couple of years.

Just because you’ve made it out of childhood without allergies doesn’t mean you’ll never have them. About 40% of children in the U.S. have some sort of allergies, but so do about 30% of adults. It’s not clear what causes adult allergies, since some allergies develop after repeated exposures to a substance, while others develop after fewer exposures. Luckily, it’s uncommon to have a severe allergic reaction like anaphylaxis for a first allergic reaction, since allergic reactions tend to get more serious with each exposure.

Pretty much any allergy has the potential to develop during childhood: allergies to food, skin, dust, mold, bugs, pets, medications, pollen, and more. Food allergies are less common than seasonal allergies, affecting only about 5 to 10% of children and 4% of adults. Nevertheless, it’s possible to develop allergies later in life to foods you’ve eaten before.

Possible signs of allergies

A child might have an allergy for a while before you recognize it as an allergy. It can be tough to detect allergies in children because they don’t always know how to describe their symptoms, and might not even be verbal yet. They might just feel generally more groggy or have cold-like symptoms such as itchy eyes, sneezing, or a runny or stuffy nose. When these symptoms appear minutes after trying a new kind of food, or touching a new pet, it’s possible that they could be a sign of an allergic reaction.

More obvious symptoms like rashes, hives, nausea, swelling of the lips or tongue, or diarrhea will make it easier to identify when something is wrong and when you should seek medical attention. If you suspect that your child has an allergy or is having an allergic reaction, contact your healthcare provider.

  • “Allergies.” American College of Allergy, Asthma & ImmunologyAmerican College of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology. 2014. Web.
  • “Allergy Facts and Figures.” AAFA. Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America. 2016. Web.
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