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Allergies That Become More Common With Aging

Most people develop allergies as children or young adults. It is also common for young people to grow out of allergies. For example, many babies with milk allergies outgrow them.1,2

But some people can develop allergies later in life. This means some allergies can become more common with aging.1,2

How do allergies develop?

An allergic reaction is caused by your immune system. When you have an allergy, your immune system overreacts to a normally harmless allergen. This reaction causes the symptoms of allergies, such as hives, runny nose, swelling, or rash. Common allergens include:1,2

  • Dust mites
  • Mold
  • Pet dander
  • Bug bites
  • Food
  • Medicine

Allergies showing up in adulthood

About 5 to 10 percent of adults over 65 live with chronic (long-term) allergies or are starting to experience allergies. As people age, their immune systems change and may become weaker. This can lead some people to develop allergies.2,3

Adults may develop:1-3

  • Food allergies
  • Seasonal allergies
  • Pet allergies
  • Sting allergies
  • Drug allergies

Food allergies

About half of food allergies in the United States develop in adults. An allergy may develop over time because it is related to other allergies. For example, in some people, a dust mite allergy is related to a shrimp allergy.2

New food allergies may also show up after long-term exposure that builds up an immune response. Foods that commonly cause allergies in adults include:2,4

  • Fish or shellfish
  • Milk
  • Peanuts
  • Tree nuts

Seasonal allergies

Seasonal allergies are also sometimes called hay fever. These are allergies to the pollen from trees or plants. Trees and plants release more pollen in the spring and fall, which is why these allergies are seasonal.1,2

Seasonal allergies may show up later in life if you move or stop taking certain medicines. Seasonal allergies can be treated with over-the-counter medicines called antihistamines.1,2

Pet allergies

Your reaction to pets will depend on your exposure to them. For example, if you are around pets more often or start letting them sleep in your bed, you may notice allergy symptoms. Some animals will shed more than others and cause allergies. Pet allergies can also usually be treated with antihistamines.1,2

Sting allergies

Allergies to stings from wasps, bees, or hornets do not always show up on the first sting. So, it may seem that they develop later in life. After the first sting, the body starts to build up an immune reaction. Then, if you get stung again you might notice an allergic reaction. This can make it seem like a new allergy as you age.1,2

Drug allergies

Older people are more likely to need to take drugs. This increases the chance of developing or having an allergic reaction. The most common drugs that cause allergies include:1

  • Antiseizure drugs
  • Insulin
  • Drugs that contain iodine, like dye used to increase the contrast when you have an X-ray
  • Penicillin
  • Ibuprofen
  • Chemotherapy drugs

How to manage new allergies as you age

If you notice new symptoms of an allergy, talk with your doctor. They may use an allergy test to identify any allergies.1,2

Some allergic reactions can be severe, even life-threatening. You may need to make a plan to manage a severe allergy. But many allergies can be managed with over-the-counter drugs. Your doctor can help you plan for treating any new allergies that appear as you get older.1,2

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