What's new about allergies

We are surrounded by allergens: food, pollen, drugs, molds, animals. We mistakenly believe that sensitivity to these allergens only develops in childhood and that if you're not allergic by 20, you never will. But an adult can start to suffer from allergies at any age.


What's new about allergies
What's new about allergies


In 2019, for the first systematic study of allergy in adults, the American Center for Food Allergy and Asthma (CFAAR) conducted a survey of 40,000 subjects and found that 1 in 10 people suffered from a food allergy. And that half of them had developed at least one allergy after 18 years.

"These results surprised us", recognizes Ruchi Gupta, director of CFAAR. His team expected an increase in food allergies triggered in adulthood, but not to this extent.


Histamine, when you hold us


In the event of an allergy, the body's reaction is almost always the same: exposure to a substance that is benign but considered dangerous by the immune system stimulates the production of antibodies, which induces the release of substances such as histamine, responsible for the inflammatory reaction. The body thus protects itself from any potential danger. But this defense comes at a price: Histamine causes hives, watery eyes, nasal congestion, and, in some severe cases, a drop in blood pressure that can lead to anaphylactic shock.


What are the causes?


Science does not yet fully understand what causes new allergies in adults, but Ruchi Gupta's team has some leads. Exposure to a new environment is an opportunity for new allergens to enter the human body - thus, a person who comes to live in Montreal where there are a lot of ash trees could develop a new allergy to the pollen of this tree. , for example. The risk of developing new allergies increases in people whose immune system is challenged or who experience hormonal changes (such as puberty or menopause), their defense system is weakened.


Drugs or injections


There is no one-size-fits-all allergy treatment, but over-the-counter antihistamines are a great solution for mild symptoms. For environmental allergies, doctors may prescribe a series of injections to expose and accustom the immune system to increasing doses of the allergens. For food allergies, new treatments are available, such as oral immunotherapy (the same principle, but by ingestion).


Forever?


It is still not clear whether allergies triggered in adulthood eventually go away or if they are there for life. Prevention is undoubtedly the best strategy: to avoid developing allergies, CFAAR researchers recommend regular exposure to allergens so that the body gets used to the different substances. Children and adults benefit from having a healthy and varied diet including known allergens: milk, peanuts, and shellfish, among others.



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