Allergic Living Magazine (Spring 2015) wrote an article about this very subject. This is something we are quite familiar with at One Dish Cuisine Cafe, Deli and Bakery. We are seeing more and more adults who are in their 40’s, 50’s and older who are coming here to eat because they suddenly had anaphylactic reactions to Peanuts, Tree Nuts, Soy, Seafood and more. They are blindsided and struggling to adjust to a severe allergy to something that they were eating without incident for their entire lives.
Some react to foods that they have always enjoyed, it is not always the case with adult onset allergies. Sometimes it is a longstanding aversion to a particular food but the article states that it can be a sign that an allergy is “brewing”. Many are just not familiar with the signs of a food allergy and not aware how serious reactions can be until they suddenly can’t breathe and their throat closes up.
You have to stay vigilant out there. You may tell a restaurant that you are allergic to milk; but the person in the kitchen thinks that milk is just milk and that butter is just butter and that cheese is just cheese and you get a meal with milk in it! The education just is not there for the average kitchen employee to know that all of these things are made from and come from milk. I tell customers when they are dining elsewhere to say: “I have a severe life threatening allergy to Milk, Cheese, Butter and all Dairy Products”.
Most of the food allergy research to date has been done on food allergic kids because food allergies now affect about 8% of kids in North America (or 1 in 13 kids). New studies estimate that about 5% of adult Americans have a food allergy that is already diagnosed ( New York’s Icahn School of Medicine at Mt Sinai). A 2004 study found that about 2% of the US population had a shellfish or fish allergy and 60% of those allergies developed in adulthood.
The most common allergen in adults was shellfish followed by tree nuts, fish, soy and peanut; even egg and milk allergies that normally start in childhood are showing up in adults. The big question is what is the trigger that makes an adult suddenly allergic to something that have tolerated their entire lives? Is it environmental? An infection? A virus or a change in where they live? (Dr. Ruchi Gupta, pediatrician who worked on the Northwestern University Study; which showed that 15% of food allergic adults developed their condition as adults). There definitely needs to be more studies.
Dr Robert Wood (chief of pediatric allergy and immunology at Johns Hopkins University) stated that “the most common reason that people become allergic to a food outside of the first few years of life is because the food that they become allergic to is related to something else that they are already allergic to.” (see my blog post about Oral Allergy Syndrome in March 2015) Basically, the immune system sees the proteins of food as similar to the other allergenic proteins and he also stated that there is an interesting relationship between reactions to shellfish dust mites and cockroach allergies; the majority of those with a shellfish allergy are dust-mite allergic too. According to Dr. Wood, “both cockroach and dust mites share some proteins with shellfish.”
Other points of interest in this article were that the age of onset spanned between ages 18-86! Most patients were female. Other allergic diseases like hay fever and eczema were associated with an increased risk of food allergy and that the older the age at diagnosis correlated to a greater risk of a severe reaction.
Stay vigilant out there folks. If you have any indication that something is different or not right after you are eating food, see an allergist immediately or call 911 if your reaction seems severe. For more information, go to http://www.foodallergy.org (FARE) because they have great information on the signs and symptoms of food allergies.