You bite into an apple and suddenly your mouth starts tingling. Or you eat shrimp for dinner and get hives. food allergies
You’re not a kid and you’ve been able to eat these foods your whole life, so what’s going on?
A number of conditions could be the cause, but one is adult-onset food allergies. That’s becoming allergic — sometimes seriously so — after reaching adulthood.
Researchers don’t know for sure why some people become allergic to certain foods after adulthood, but there are several theories about triggers as well as possible remedies.
“There’s so many food conditions, and it’s so important to really understand what you have because you want to know how to manage it, and some of them actually have treatments,” says Dr. Ruchi Gupta, director of the Center for Food Allergy and Asthma, part of Institute for Public Health and Medicine at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine in Chicago.
More than 50 million Americans have food allergies, which happen when a person’s immune system overreacts to something in a food, according to the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology (ACAAI). Certain food chemicals, such as some food colourings or preservatives, are known triggers of asthma attacks for many susceptible people.
That includes about 10% of adults, according to Gupta’s own research. Some allergies carried over from childhood, but nearly half of those began during adulthood. About 38% in the 2019 study of 40,000 people reported having a severe reaction to food that sent them to the emergency room.
While you can be allergic to anything, nine substances cause 90% of food allergies: peanuts, tree nuts, milk, egg, shellfish, finfish, soy, wheat and sesame.
Among adults, shellfish allergy is the most common, affecting almost 3%, Gupta says.
Life changes a trigger
Though allergies tend to run in families, among many reasons researchers have identified for new allergies in adulthood is a change in