Allergies are common in kids, and there’s a prevailing belief that they will outgrow them. While this may be true in some cases, it’s patently false in others. In this article, we’ll take a look at different types of allergy and whether or not aging will affect them for better or worse.
Pollen allergies commonly manifest through hay fever, which has nothing to do with hay or a fever! Rather, it is the explosion of pollen that coincides with the season when farmers are out in the fields baling hay. The clinical name for the sneezing, nasal congestion, coughing, and itchy eyes associated with hay fever is “allergic rhinitis.”
About half of those who suffer with allergic rhinitis report that their symptoms improve with age, but they still experience some seasonal allergy symptoms. Only 20% report that they have a complete remission of symptoms. This remission is most likely to occur among those in their 50s or older. Risk factors such as asthma make it less likely that people will experience a decrease in allergic rhinitis over time.
Many scientists believe that when relief occurs, it is because the body has been exposed over a prolonged period to low levels of pollen in the environment. As a result, it learns to “make peace” with these pollens and stop overreacting to them with irritating allergy symptoms.
Before you get too excited, though, remember that even though allergies may go away for a minority of people, they are, overall, more likely to develop than to disappear as the immune system loses its tolerance for different pollens or is suddenly exposed to new pollens that it overreacts to. (Think of a new tree in your neighbor’s yard that brings a torrent of misery as it pollinates.)
Nearly a third of people are allergic to cats and dogs in the U.S., and cat allergies are twice as prevalent as dog allergies. Contrary to popular opinion, you don’t react to the animal hair but to proteins found in an animal’s saliva, urine, and dead skin flakes (known as pet dander).
You may manifest allergies to a pet right away, but this is not always the case. I had one patient who was an avid animal lover. In fact, she loved animals so much that she had a pet sitting business. After going her whole life without pet allergies, she suddenly became allergic to dogs in adulthood. I treated her with sublingual immunotherapy, and she was able to resume her pet care business. This is a prime example of how pet allergies can develop at any time.
While it is possible to completely outgrow pet allergies, it is more likely that they will remain in some form (perhaps more severe, perhaps milder).
Food allergies are increasing in children. In fact, the CDC reports that 1 in 13 children has food allergies—the equivalent of approximately two children per school class. The likelihood of a child outgrowing their food allergy depends on the type and severity of the allergy.
Commonly outgrown food allergies: Milk and egg allergies are typical in children, and up to 80 percent of kids outgrow them by the time they are 16.
Food allergies that are not usually outgrown: Allergies to fish, shellfish, peanuts, and tree nuts tend to be more severe and are not usually outgrown.
Consider these statistics from the Mayo Clinic:
- Fish and shellfish allergies: 4% to 5% of children outgrow
- Peanut allergies: 20% of children outgrow
- Tree nut allergies: 14% of children outgrow
Food allergies can manifest with symptoms that range from mild to severe:
- Itchy mouth
- Swollen lips
- Swollen throat (leading to difficulty breathing)
- Runny or stuffed up nose
- Anaphylaxis (a severe, potentially life-threatening reaction that induces low blood pressure, may cause you to faint, quickens the pulse, and constricts the airways so that you have trouble breathing)
A test called a “food challenge” can help people know if they have outgrown their food allergy. With a food challenge, they are exposed to gradually increasing amounts of trigger foods in a controlled setting to determine how their immune system will react. Food challenges are not recommended for those with severe food allergies who are at risk for anaphylaxis.
While most food allergies develop in childhood, some can develop randomly in adulthood. This is most common with peanuts, tree nuts, fish and shellfish.
Relief Through Sublingual Immunotherapy
Just because you don’t outgrow a food allergy doesn’t mean that you’re stuck with it. Medications can bring relief by treating allergy symptoms, but if you’re looking for a long-term fix, consider allergy immunotherapy—the only treatment that has been shown to change the underlying immune response that causes allergies.
Allergy immunotherapy is available through allergy shots or sublingual immunotherapy. At AllergyEasy, we favor sublingual immunotherapy because it is safer than shots and easier to stick with because it can be administered at home. Shots have to be administered at the doctor’s office, but because drops are safer, they can be dosed once-per-day at home, saving you valuable time.
Like shots, sublingual immunotherapy works well for pollen, mold, dust, and pet dander allergies, and it has also been shown to be an effective food allergy treatment.
Whether you’re dealing with an allergy that has been with you since childhood or one that has developed in adulthood, talk to your doctor about sublingual immunotherapy drops for convenient, lasting relief from allergies.