While most food allergies start in childhood, adults can develop allergies too and it can happen out of nowhere.
Maybe you’ve been eating seafood your entire life and suddenly your favorite lobster dish causes your lips to swell. What’s causing it? Chances are you have developed an adult-onset food allergy.
Though doctors aren’t sure why some people develop allergies as they age, an estimated 15 percent of people with food allergies developed them after turning 18, according to a study by Northwestern. If you do develop an allergy as an adult, you’re most likely to experience your first allergic reaction in your early 30s. The study focused on people ranging in age from 18 to 86 years old and also found more women than men experience adult-onset allergies. And if you outgrew childhood food allergies, it is possible to suddenly experience them again as an adult.
What’s most concerning of all? The study suggests that the older you are at the time your food allergy starts, the worse your reaction is likely to be.
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The five biggest culprits
The five most common foods to which adults are allergic, according to the Northwestern study, include:
About 16 percent of the study participants were allergic to more than one food.
Symptoms of food allergies
You might have a food allergy if you experience digestive problems, tingling or itching in your mouth, swelling of your lips or tongue, hives, wheezing or trouble breathing after eating a specific food. Even small amounts may be enough to cause a reaction.
In more severe cases, you may experience a constriction and tightening of airways, rapid pulse, drop in blood pressure, dizziness or you may even faint. If you experience these symptoms, call an ambulance.
If you think you have developed a food allergy, visit your doctor for an allergy test, generally a blood test or a skin prick test. Even if your reaction to the food was mild, it’s important to get diagnosed as food allergies tend to get worse as time goes by.
If an allergy is confirmed, you’ll need to eliminate the food from your diet. If your allergy is severe, you may need to start carrying an epinephrine injection in case you accidentally eat the food.
If you have any questions about living with food allergies, schedule a visit with your primary care physician.
by Anne Fritz
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