Some people struggle with allergies starting in childhood. Others find themselves developing allergic reactions as adults. According to the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America (AAFA), more than 50 million Americans experience some type of allergies each year, and allergies are the sixth leading cause of chronic illness in the country. Regardless of when your allergies began or what you may be allergic to, many people wonder if they can outgrow their allergies. Unfortunately, there isn’t a clear answer.
What are Allergies?
Allergies are the immune system’s reaction to substances that the body deems a threat. Some common allergen triggers are pollen, dust mites, mold, animal dander, insect stings, drugs, and foods, such as shellfish, nuts, or dairy. When the immune system finds a substance it thinks is foreign, it creates immunoglobulin E antibodies.
The next time that substance enters your system, these antibodies, which attach to the skin, lungs, and gastrointestinal tract, will release a chemical called histamine. Histamine causes blood vessels to dilate, leading to an allergic reaction. Some symptoms of an allergic reaction include:
- cold-like symptoms
- respiratory difficulties
- digestive problems
Histamines act as warning signs in our body, indicating that we have come into contact with a substance that could harm us. In many cases, our body’s histamine response also activates our white blood cells which are designed to fight infection.
Outgrowing Food and Seasonal Allergies
It is possible for people with a food allergy as a child to outgrow that condition with age. This depends, however, on the food that causes the allergy and how severe the child’s reaction is. For instance, the Mayo Clinic reported that “60 to 80 percent of young children with a milk or egg allergy are able to have those foods without a reaction by the time they reach age 16.” It is much less likely that a child will outgrow an allergy to peanuts, tree nuts, finned fish, and shellfish. But scientists do not yet have an answer for why some people outgrow these kinds of allergies while others do not.
In some cases, individuals may have a food intolerance rather than an allergy. This is typically a less serious condition, with symptoms that come on more gradually and only include digestive issues. Food intolerance does not usually change with age.
It is rare that an individual can outgrow seasonal allergies or hay fever. While you may not outgrow non-food allergies, the symptoms you experience may lessen or worsen as you grow older. It is also possible to develop food or environmental allergies as an adult even if you did not have them as a child.
If you aren’t sure if your symptoms are linked to an allergy, or you think you or your child might have outgrown a food-related allergy, it is best to reach out to a qualified allergist for the appropriate testing. This can determine what triggers may be causing your allergic reaction, as well as safely tell you if a food allergy has diminished or developed.
If you are seeking treatment for asthma or allergies, contact Columbia Allergy at one of our convenient locations in California, Oregon, Idaho, or Washington. We take a patient-focused approach that views every person as an individual with unique challenges and goals.
This is not medical advice. We encourage you to seek assessment and treatment from a trained medical professional to learn more about your unique needs.