Can You Really Still Get First-Time Allergies as an Adult?

If you went into adulthood without a semblance of an allergy symptom to show for your youth, you might have thought that you’re one of the lucky ones among us; the ones who don’t have to worry about itchy eyes and incessant sneezes come spring, cats, or any other number of allergen triggers. But newsflash: you might not be as lucky as you thought.

Contrary to what we often think, allergies are totally capable of popping up for the first time in adulthood, and don’t necessarily need to affect you when you’re younger in order for you to experience them later in life. For the most part, allergies tend to be genetic, meaning that if your parents or other family members suffer from serious bouts of hay fever every year, that gene is likely to have been passed down to you (read: you’re most likely prone to the itchy eyes, throat tickles, and sneezes, unfortunately). However, just because you have the “allergy gene,” so to speak, that doesn’t always mean that the gene will manifest itself when you’re younger. In fact, it’s common for some of us to only see that immune response to allergens manifest itself later in life after we’ve been exposed to a high volume of allergens (think pollen, mold, etc.) over time and that build up triggers a reaction.

Beyond that, there are other changes we tend to experience as we age – hormonal changes due to pregnancy, for example, or a natural weakening of the immune system that comes with aging – that could ultimately trigger an allergic response in your system later in life.

So, sure, you may have taken solace in knowing that, despite your mom’s sneezing fits come spring, you’re lucky to always come out of allergy season unscathed. But just for good measure, you might want to keep some Claritin on hand. You never know.