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Allergies and Age: When do allergies develop?

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When was the first time you felt your throat tickle? The first time you sneezed on a sunny spring day? We don’t blame you if you can’t remember! For long-time allergy sufferers, it’s difficult to imagine a time before symptoms began. 

The majority of the more than 50 million Americans living with allergies were not born with their symptoms., Just as it takes time to desensitize to allergens, it also  takes time for allergies to develop. But is there a specific age for when symptoms appear?

When do allergies (typically) develop?

Is allergy development exclusive to childhood? Technically, no, but it is more common. About  30% of children live with some type of childhood allergy.  

Genetics plays a role in allergy development, however, it does not mean that specific allergies are passed down like traits such as hair or eye color. Instead, a child will inherit the tendency to develop allergies and may develop allergies wholly unique from their mother or father. 

While childhood allergies may not be immediately visible for some, parents may notice symptoms developing as early as infancy. Research supported by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) has shown allergies that begin in infancy often express themselves first as eczema – a process known as the “allergic march.”

What is the allergic march?

This atopic pipeline is the progression of allergy development from infancy to adulthood. The allergic march often begins in infants born with dry skin and can lead to food and seasonal allergies and then later to asthma. According to the Allergy & Asthma Network, common allergy development by age is as follows:

  • Birth to age 1: Eczema, skin irritation
  • Age 1 to 3: Food allergies
  • Age 4 to 6: Seasonal allergies
  • Age 5 to 7: Asthma

Many studies have looked at factors that could prevent the development of allergies and eczema in children. However, the development of allergies is thought to be multi-factorial so there is no evidence to date of specific changes that will ensure a patient does not develop allergies. Certain measures, like breastfeeding during the first six months of life, have been shown to reduce the risk of asthma, eczema and cow’s milk allergy. Remember though, that risk reduction is not the same as disease prevention. 

Here at Charleston Allergy and Asthma, we believe your child’s safety is paramount and want to be sure our Lowcountry parents have no shortage of support. Always speak with your board-certified allergist to discuss the best course of action regarding your child’s allergy testing and treatment options.

Can adults develop allergies, too?

Yes, they can! In fact, we’ve written an entire blog specifically on adult on-set allergies. Read “Can allergies suddenly develop in adulthood?” for a deep dive into allergy development later in life. Here are the essentials for now. 

Allergy symptoms develop due to allergen exposure. So, does that mean you’re safe if you’ve been exposed to an allergen and had no reaction? Not entirely. Adult allergies often develop due to new experiences (like moving to a new region or eating a new food) that put you in contact with a previously unknown allergen. Adults can also develop skin allergies to topical products that they have been using for a long time, a diagnosis known as allergic contact dermatitis. 

Your body then misidentifies these normally innocuous substances as “invaders.” Over time, the immune system retaliates to “protect” you. These defensive responses manifest in the form of allergic reactions. 

Is there a cure for allergies?

No matter your age, there is hope for conquering your symptoms. Immunotherapy (allergy shots) is considered the closest “cure” for true allergy relief. Immunotherapy is available for inhalant allergies that cause allergic rhinitis symptoms. To begin this process, you’ll need to meet with your board-certified allergy specialist for allergy testing. Once you and your doctor have identified the cause of your symptoms, you can begin this series of injections designed to combat your specific allergy profile. 

Charleston Allergy and Asthma is here for you! 

Say so long to symptoms, and adios to your allergies! At Charleston Allergy and Asthma, our board-certified allergy specialists are committed to spreading health and happiness to all our Lowcountry patients. Contact us today to schedule an appointment and explore our site to learn more about our services.

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