Why does an allergy occur in adults who have not suffered from it before?
WHAT CAUSES AN ALLERGY IN A PERSON?
As a child, you could eat kilograms of strawberries without fear of red cheeks, even as a teenager your face remained without a pimple, an allergy to peanuts or eggs sounds like something unreal to you, and you don’t understand how you can not pet a cat …
In a word, if you are one of those who believe that he is definitely not threatened by allergies, you may be interested in reading this text.
The immune system of the body produces various antibodies to protect against disease. In the case of an allergy, the immune system synthesizes immunoglobulin E, also known as IgE . Its excess causes allergy symptoms. IgE is a chemical messenger that travels through cells to convey information about the need for chemical defense against a foreign invader. People with allergies have high levels of IgE against otherwise harmless environmental irritants, such as certain foods, pollen, or pet dander.
PEOPLE WITH ALLERGIES ARE RECOVERING
In recent years, a significant increase in the number of cases of allergies among adults has been recorded. For example, if in 2008 0.5% of the adult population had a nut allergy, then in 2017 this figure was already 1.8%.
Many theories to explain the rise in newly identified allergies focus on higher concentrations of air pollutants, a growing population of dust mites, less ventilation in homes and offices, malnutrition, and a sedentary lifestyle. What’s more, even the way you were born can also increase your risk of developing allergies. It has been proven that people who are born by caesarean section do not come into contact with the maternal microbiome , which results in the predominance of atypical bacteria in them. Over time, these people are more likely to develop some form of allergy.
Another theory related to hygiene suggests that the less bacteria a person is exposed to, the more they may be susceptible to allergic diseases due to inhibition of the natural development of the immune system.
In addition, according to the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology, published in 2017, some ethnic groups may also be more susceptible to certain allergic reactions. For example, Caucasians are less likely to be allergic to peanuts and shellfish than Hispanics, Asians, and blacks over 18 years of age.
HOW AGE AFFECTS ALLERGIES?
The development of one form or another of allergy in adults is possible regardless of age. Although for some types of allergies, age does matter.
For example, most food reactions that occur in childhood disappear as they grow older. Conversely, the likelihood of developing certain types of allergies, such as hay fever, increases over the years.
But most people who are diagnosed with allergies as adults have probably had an allergic episode earlier in their lives that they don’t remember. Allergy often develops according to a well-known scenario. Atopic dermatitis appears first, followed by food allergies in infants and children, followed by hay fever symptoms in middle and late childhood. Allergy symptoms may disappear during adolescence, but then return in adulthood.
However, there are people who, indeed, experience the first symptoms of allergies as adults. It could be a reaction to anything: pollen, mold, medicine, insect bites, food…
When it comes to food, the most common food allergy triggers in adults are peanuts, fish, shellfish (shrimp, crab), and tree nuts (almonds, walnuts, pecans, and cashews).
HOW DOES ALLERGY MANIFEST IN ADULTS?
One US study suggests that adults may be most at risk for intense, severe symptoms and anaphylaxis , a life-threatening condition. Exercising, asthma, and the use of alcohol and certain medications, including aspirin, increase the likelihood of such a reaction.
Anaphylaxis can occur immediately or sometimes minutes after ingestion of an allergen or insect bite.
In this case, the only effective way to “extinguish” the reaction is adrenaline. In this case, it must be entered immediately. The longer a patient is left untreated, the greater the chance of death. Therefore, patients with a history of anaphylaxis are advised to carry an epinephrine injector with them at all times.
But the most amazing thing about allergies in adults is that it can appear suddenly on things that did not cause any problems yesterday. You may have been in contact with this allergen on a daily basis for many years without any side effects and suddenly feel allergic symptoms.
WHAT FACTORS INCREASE THE RISK OF ALLERGY WITH AGE?
Factors that can contribute to the appearance of allergies in adulthood include:
· changing of the living place;
Appearance of a pet
Reaching the threshold value of the allergen influence;
influence of allergens during the weakening of the immune system (illness or pregnancy).
As a rule, allergies in adults make themselves felt in the second, third or fourth decade. Further, theoretically, the chances of getting one or another reaction decrease. Although in rare cases, an allergy for the first time can occur much later – at 70, or even at 80 years old.
More often, the severity of allergy symptoms, on the contrary, decreases with age. This happens after the age of 50 and is explained by the fact that over time the immune function decreases, so the response to allergens also becomes less pronounced.
However, due to the global trend towards population aging, scientists suggest that over time, the number of allergic reactions may increase precisely among the elderly.
Allergic reactions in old age can occur for the following reasons:
· Aging at the molecular, cellular and systemic levels.
The aging process affects the functions of the body at the molecular, cellular and systemic levels, due to which older people suffer more from chronic inflammatory diseases, and these diseases also accelerate aging.
As a result of the aging of the immune system, older people have an increased susceptibility to infectious diseases; in old age, autoimmune diseases, neoplasia, metabolic diseases, osteoporosis, and neurological disorders are more common.
Also, with age, a deficiency of such microelements with important immuno -regulatory functions, such as iron, zinc and vitamin D , begins to be observed more often.
All this can lead to the development of allergic reactions.
· Brain aging .
Age-related changes occur in all parts of the body, including the brain. Neurodegenerative diseases, cognitive impairment, depression and poor response to stressors are some of the major neurological problems in the elderly .
Stress releases hormones and other substances, including histamine, leading to allergy symptoms. While stress does not actually cause allergies, it can exacerbate an allergic reaction by increasing the release of histamine. Therefore, stress and allergies reinforce each other.
Problems with the gastrointestinal tract
Another weak point is the digestive tract. Changes in local immune responses here can contribute to the development of food allergies, regardless of age.
This can be caused by taking certain medications (for example, drugs that suppress the acidity of the stomach), alcohol, immunological changes that occur in old age, and chronic diseases of the digestive tract.
One study conducted among nursing home patients (mean age 77 years) showed that 24.8% of them had specific IgE to food allergens.
Physiological changes in the upper and lower respiratory tract.
These age-related changes can exacerbate nasal congestion, itching, sneezing, and rhinorrhea, which are typical symptoms of allergic rhinitis.
For example, nasal mucociliary clearance is the primary innate defense mechanism in the nose and paranasal sinuses. Thanks to him, the mucus secreted into the upper respiratory tract by the goblet cells of the respiratory epithelium and retaining particles from the air, allergens and pathogens, is transported by the flickering cells of the respiratory epithelium to the pharynx, where it is swallowed. But, with age, the time required for this increases significantly, which means a decrease in the function of the respiratory epithelium.
Anatomical changes associated with aging also include damage to the nasal mucosa, ciliary ultrastructural defects such as increased central microtubule disorientation, changes in elastic tissue and collagen proportions, and aging of collagen itself. Aging leads to changes in the larynx, an increase in the area of the trachea, a loss of lung capacity by more than 40%.
ALLERGY SYMPTOMS AND THEIR TREATMENT
Before symptoms begin to appear, the allergen will test our immune system for some time. It may take several years, until one day the body still does not lose tolerance to a particular substance. Symptoms of an allergic reaction can be very different – from a runny nose to the already mentioned severe form – anaphylaxis. In particular, there may be:
- runny nose,
- soreness, itching or tickling in the mouth,
- rash like hives,
- skin itch,
- abdominal pain, nausea, vomiting
- breathing problems
- loss of consciousness,
For example, 42% of adults with atopic dermatitis acquired the disease in adulthood. However, it most often appears on the hands, head or neck (according to a study published in November 2017 in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical immunology ).
Also, it is noteworthy that those who previously did not have allergies in response to certain chemical irritants are more likely to develop non-allergic rhinitis. In this case, nasal congestion, postnasal drip, and other symptoms often associated with allergies may occur. However, these symptoms are caused by irritants (such as odors, dust, cigarette smoke, or detergents), changes in atmospheric pressure, or certain medications, not an allergen.
Treating Allergy Symptoms
If you are concerned about mild allergy symptoms, such as due to pollen exposure, you can try antihistamines. If they don’t help, see your family doctor to rule out other conditions and possibly get a referral to an allergist. It can help identify specific triggers, suggest ways to avoid them, and suggest other specific allergy treatments such as ASIT.
If you suspect you have a food allergy, take it seriously as it can be life threatening. If the allergist confirms the diagnosis, it is possible that you will have to constantly avoid the food that provokes the development of symptoms.