Allergy in old age? Well, it’s possible | health and fitness | Hindustan Times
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Allergy in old age? Well, it’s possible

Most people believe that people with allergies are either born with it or develop identifiable symptoms in their childhood. They couldn’t be more wrong. An allergy can occur at any point in a person’s life, writes Sanchita Sharma.

health and fitness Updated: Sep 20, 2008 23:30 IST
Sanchita Sharma

The fact that I’m allergic to paracetamol (the generic name for Crocin) always shocks people. “So what do you take for fever?” they invariably ask. “I don’t know. The need never arose,” I reply.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not a woman of steel so immune to attacks by countless bacteria and sundry viruses that I’ve never had a fever in my life. The thing is that after popping paracetamol for everything, from a toothache and headache to a backache and fever for years, I suddenly developed an allergic reaction to it a few years ago.

It took me one whole day to figure out that the mysterious blotches on my face and arms were not signs of a new killer disease but a simple allergic rash that disappeared within an hour of taking an anti-histamine (the fancy name for an anti-allergy pill). That was a few years ago, and pretty miraculously, I’ve been free of fever ever since.

Most people believe that people with allergies are either born with it or develop identifiable symptoms in their childhood. They couldn’t be more wrong. An allergy can occur at any point in a person’s life and experts say its prevalence in adults is rising.

One in three people inherit a genetic predisposition to allergies, though it is difficult to say what is the tipping point which causes them to develop symptoms. While most people who develop allergies as adults have experienced an allergic reaction earlier in life, some have no history of sensitivity.

Some experts suggest that adults who develop allergies were not exposed to high levels of allergens as children or that the immune systems became sensitive to an allergen over the years and reacted to it without warning one fine day.

While the allergy trigger may be one, the acute immune reaction to it is usually caused by a combination of factors.

Stress, change in lifestyle, a cleaner environment and changes in the body’s hormonal balance are thought to be some triggers. This is borne out by clinical evidence that shows women are more likely to develop allergies at puberty, after pregnancy and at menopause which points to hormonal causes.

Another factor leading to the increase in numbers of allergy sufferers is the indiscriminate use of antibiotics, vaccines and cleaner food and water that prevents the immune systems from becoming robust enough to fight allergens on its own.

Allergies in adults are treated by using medications like antihistamines, antileukotrienes and nasal corticosteroid sprays to reduce the inflammation; oral immuno-therapy vaccination; and a series of allergy shots for those who do not respond to the other treatments.