Currently there are approximately fifteen million Americans that are dealing with some form of food allergies. This is a large number and it doesn’t even take into account the people in the U.S. that have environmental triggers like seasonal pollens, animal allergies, etc. Allergies of this nature can present themselves in a variety of different ways whether it be an occasional sneeze and stuffy nose or a total body anaphylactic shock. Over time these allergies can improve as the body may learn that an allergy is not a harmful or dangerous substance. Many allergies, especially food, occur in children and while many do outgrow them later on, allergies can continue on for a lifetime. As an adult you can develop a food allergy at any time but most commonly these allergies are present from birth or early on. Let’s take a look at the age group that is most susceptible to developing allergies and why this is.
The Immune System Response
Our immune system is designed to protect us from things that are foreign whether it be a bacteria, virus or pathogen. We are able to consume every day foods and nutrients and these don’t bother us so why do certain foods cause an allergic reaction? It looks like food tolerance is because of ongoing exposure whether during pregnancy or by a young child as they grow up. Over time T cells are formed during consumption or exposure and without these T cells, we would typically have an immune response for anything we would eat. This is an evolutionary process.
Common Allergen Triggers
These days there are some very common allergies, especially when it comes to foods. Peanuts, tree nuts, egg, milk and soy are all very commonly diagnosed as an allergy and many children have life threatening forms of these allergies. A number of years ago this wasn’t the case so why the big change now? Many studies have been done on this matter and it has been suggested that children are developing the most allergies because of how our food is processed and grown. New components to our food is leaving children’s immune systems unable to process what they are eating and an immune response takes place. Over time a child can grow out of these allergies but you won’t see many adults developing new peanut allergies in their forties or fifties.
Of course, while children are reported as having more allergies than adults, there are adults who have allergies that have been present since birth or they have been developed later on in life. The body does go through changes at certain points of life. For example, menopause can cause a woman’s body to change in many ways and this can even include an immune system change where certain foods or environmental triggers can become bothersome.
Children these days are being diagnosed with a number of allergies that they will carry with them for the rest of their lives or for many years. Sometimes the allergy will get better as a very young child grows and their immune system changes and develops more but this is not always the case. For some children, puberty may result in a change in allergies. Researchers are spending a good deal of time trying to understand these allergies further so better treatment and prevention can take place. For example, at one time it was suggested that pregnant women stay away from peanuts to prevent their child from developing an allergy. Currently, the advice is the opposite and it is recommended that peanuts and other high allergy foods be consumed.