Allergies in Adults

Archived Q&A and Reviews


Developing allergies in your late 30's/early 40's

May 1998

This is an interesting phenomenon, because I've known several women, including myself, who have suddenly developed allergic reactions in their late 30's/early 40's when they've never been allergic before. I just recovered from 2 weeks of hives from a newly developed allergy to amoxycillin.

My sister-in-law, who has been eating fish her whole life, suddenly at age 37 had a frightening anaphylactic reaction to eating fish and now has to carry around an epi-pen to self-administer epinephrine in an emergency. She's a public health PhD and thinks it would be an interesting study to find out if there's any correlation to age, gender, or child-bearing. I'd be interested to hear if anyone else has experienced this.

Two summers ago I suddenly developed an allergy to peanuts. One day I ate a handful before a nap and woke up with the hives, and my lungs were congested. I didn't connect the two until I was at a doctor appointment the following week. The allergist didn't want to do a skin test to see if it was the peanuts because I had already had such a severe reaction. Instead they ran blood tests. These were inconclusive. They prescribed an Epi-Pen anyway... and I have confirmed that it was the peanuts by inadvertently eating peanuts in food at another time. I was only 24 with no kids and I am female .

The same year my aunt who is in her 40's (has 1 child) had a sudden attack of anaphylactic shock along with burning sensations in and around her mouth, like when you eat something too hot. Her allergist has never been able to determine what her's was caused by. Exactly one year later, the incident repeated itself... they think it may have to do with a plant that suddenly blooms at that time of year.

According to her allergist, hives are more common with food allergies, and the burning thing is more often associated with allergies to chemicals. Anaphylactic shock can happen with any severe allergy.

I keep Benedryl as well as an Epi-Pen in my purse, in my house, and one my desk drawer at work. I have heard that continued exposure can cause more severe reactions. It is very important to keep your antidotes on hand and let others know how to use them (and where you keep them) so they can help if they find you in shock.

This is in response to Chen Yin and her inquiry into other parents' experiences with the sudden onset of allergic reactions and any possible relation between these reactions to age, gender, and child-bearing. A few years ago I was prescribed a strong antiobiotic -- sorry, I can't remember its name -- when I had pneumonia. I had a horrible reaction of hives which I had never experienced before in response to antibiotics or anything else! It was really miserable. I was about 34 at the time, and it was before I had my daughter. Maybe antibiotics just keep getting stronger and some bodies just can't take it. I know that I am extremely sensitve to medications in general and a little goes a long way... Best, Mary

When my mother was in her early fifties, she developed an allergy to tomatoes (hives, itchy hands, swollen eyes). Since then she has engaged in a vigorous vitamin regiment which seems to have cured her allergy. She can now consume tomatoes without breaking out into hives. Within the last three years, my husband (now 33, with one 3 1/2 year old son) developed a severe allergy to tomatoes, which had been a staple of his diet. Rather than child-bearing, age or gender, his three trips to the emergency room suggest that a combination of stress, sickness (i.e. a weakened immune system), and a drop of tomato juice will send him into anaphylactic shock. Other foods, such as melon, artichokes, beets and pistachios cause his hands to itch as well. (And the list keeps growing!) Because of the severity of his reactions, he must carry an epi-pen at all times. Mary Alice Murphy, who others have recommended, is his allergist and he speaks very highly of her. I only wish there were a better treatment than a daily dose of Claratin for the rest of his life. He began taking a bunch of vitamins, following the advice of my mother, but this did not ward off the last anaphylactic attack he had two years ago. Has anyone had success with alternative treatments, such as acupuncture, designed to boost the immune system, which seems to be the main problem here? Christine