Adult-Onset Food Allergies Can Be Severe

By -

I was going into anaphylactic shock, I was sure of it. Newly pregnant and paranoid about everything, I had eaten something new and felt my throat tightening. It was hard to breathe.

I told my husband to rush home from work, and had him take me straight to the emergency room. I remember sitting in the waiting area, panicking, and wondering why they weren’t taking my plight more seriously.

Hours later, we had our answer: not an allergic reaction, just a panic attack. The ER doctor handed me a pamphlet on “soldier’s heart,” which is basically shortness of breath and chest pain caused by anxiety. So… not dying, then? No.

I wasn’t totally convinced, so my family doctor prescribed an EpiPen, which I carried around faithfully in my purse along with a bottle of Benadryl.

That was five years ago, but I’ve still had flashes of thinking I might be allergic to something — and I’m not alone. Childhood allergies can reappear, oral allergy syndrome can catch you off-guard, and adult-onset food allergies can strike at any point in your life.

Adult-Onset Food Allergies Can Be Severe

Photo source

Many adults without allergies are choosing to carry just-in-case EpiPens on the off-chance they have a sudden, unprecedented allergic reaction.

A Northwestern University study published in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology is showing that the older a patient is when they’re diagnosed with food allergies, the more likely they are to have a severe reaction.

The study looked at the medical records of more than 1,100 adults with food allergies, and saw that more than 15 per cent had been diagnosed as adults — with most having their first reaction in their early 30s.

According to the study …

  • Women are also more likely to have adult onset allergies than men
  • Shellfish and tree nuts are the most common adult-onset allergies
  • All of the Top 8 allergens seen in children — milk, eggs, fish, shellfish, tree nuts, peanuts, wheat, and soy — are also present in adults

Food allergies currently affect 8 per cent of children and 5 per cent of adults, but the study authors say that figure is likely higher — and rising — because most allergy studies are based on babies and children. It’s unclear how many adults are experiencing food allergies, and why certain allergies might strike in adulthood.

Many experts believe children have food allergies because they fail to develop a tolerance to a food, but what about adults who eat a food for decades before having a reaction? The study suggests they’re “losing tolerance” to foods they could once eat, and this could be critical in understand how food allergies develop.

H/T Allergic Living

Heather Laura Clarke, a contributing writer at Scratch or Sniff, lives in Nova Scotia, Canada, with her high-school sweetheart husband, seven-year-old son, and five-year-old daughter. She writes for newspapers and magazines across Canada and the U.S., and blogs about her family life at Heather's Handmade Life. Follow her adventures on Twitter or Instagram.

5 Comments to Adult-Onset Food Allergies Can Be Severe

  1. Tiffany

    Excellent post, Heather! My hubby has a set of epi’s at work because of what appears to be adult onset allergies. Weirdest thing. Glad you’re okay :-).

    • That’s a very good idea, Tiffany! I wish EpiPens weren’t so expensive — even in Canada! — because it seems like such a no-brainer that they be accessible everywhere. You never know who might need one.

  2. Once upon a time, I could eat anything I wanted to—I mean, we’re talking Blue Bell ice cream almost every night and PBJs for days. ;) All of that changed after I was hit with fluoroquinolone toxicity after taking two (just two!) pills of Avelox (a sister drug to the ever-popular, oft-prescribed Cipro). Along with a host of other health issues, Avelox bestowed upon me several food sensitivities*—and they’re not insignificant. Casein/dairy (egg whites are OK), yeast, and peanuts are the big three, along with several lesser antagonists (e.g., cranberries (?!), mushrooms, walnuts, etc.). Gluten, surprisingly, is not among my list of offenders.

    I’ve met one other person who, like me, can no longer tolerate certain foods after having been floxed, and I’ve heard of many more: once-healthy adults who used to be able to eat anything they wanted but can do so no longer due to fluoroquinolone toxicity syndrome. Since the symptoms of fluoroquinolone toxicity can manifest days, weeks, or even months after treatment has ended, it’s possible that some (most?) individuals wouldn’t connect the sudden onset of food issues with the antibiotic. (Fun fact: It’s also not outside the realm of possibility that fluoroquinolone antibiotics are a cause of the uptick in fibromyalgia cases, since Cipro’s such a popular UTI drug and Levaquin is a go-to for pneumonia.)

    It’s wild, and it’s just one factor in a veritable sea of who-knows-what when it comes to food and environmental allergies.

    *I say “sensitivities” instead of “allergies” because, thus far, none of them have catapulted me into the realm of anaphylactic shock or whole-body hives, and I don’t want to detract from the seriousness of life-threatening allergies.

    • That is wild, Rennie! Are you seeing an allergist? Would be very interested to know what they think about your situation. Thanks for sharing!

      • I’ve been seeing a functional medicine doctor, and she ordered an allergy test to confirm the sensitivities—something that neither I nor the MDs I’d gone to in the past had thought of! Food issues? Me? Surely not! (In four years (!) of tests ordered by my previous doctors, the results had always returned with a big ol’ “NORMAL” on every panel they ran me against, which is common for floxies (and is why a lot of floxies are told that their symptoms are “all in their head”).) But lo and behold, she was right! I tested positive for low-grade food allergies.

        I’ve toyed with the idea of seeing a formal allergist, but since avoiding the various troublesome foods has been so successful, I wonder if it would do much good. Do you have any thoughts or suggestions? Dos or don’ts? What to look for when seeking an allergist?

        It would be interesting to compare the mitochondria of someone who’s borne food allergies since birth with those of someone who’s developed allergies during their adult years (be it due to fluoroquinolones or undetermined causes). I wonder whether there would be any similarities on a cellular level, and what those similarities would be. (Fluoroquinolones are notorious for damaging mitochondria, causing oxidative stress, and all sorts of other cell harm.)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *