It’s true that kids are especially prone to allergies, but the infirmity is not exclusive to children. Adults can develop allergies at any age. Thus, there is no assurance that if you did not have allergies as a kid, you’re in the clear. Even senior citizens can develop allergic sensitivities to molds or pollens in ways that they have never experienced in the past.
Almost 18 million adult Americans have allergy symptoms, including hay fever and allergic rhinitis. Weeds, pollens, and molds cause most allergies. Dust and pet dander are also prevalent triggers. And although many people outgrow the food allergies of their youth, some adults still react to foods like shellfish and peanuts. Penicillin, stinging insects, and latex allergies are common in adulthood, too.
The American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology estimates that as many as 30 percent of adult Americans have nasal allergies. Indeed, late-onset allergies are becoming a significant problem for the aging population. The figures may be skewed, however, by a part of the population that may have had allergies in childhood but are only now reporting them due to an increased awareness of the health challenge. In other words, they may have experienced symptoms for years but only linked them to allergies as they became more informed about allergic disease and its effects.
Some researchers believe that heightened exposure to certain allergens could lead to allergy symptoms. For example, if an adult moves into an area with a certain type of pollen that they have not been exposed to in the past, they may develop a sensitivity to it over time. This is often seen in the healthcare field where people who consistently wear latex gloves develop latex allergies that they didn’t experience in the past.
The debate over the cause of adult-onset allergies continues. However, it is clear that allergies now affect people in all areas and age groups and have become the sixth-leading cause of chronic illness in the country. Americans now spend more than $18 billion a year for the prevention and treatment of allergies.