In the elderly, the prevalence of food allergies is estimated at 5% to 10%,1,2 but is likely underestimated and underdiagnosed, and, thus, undertreated. A study reported that 24.8% of geriatric nursing home patients (mean age of 77) were positive (skin test) for food allergens.
The answer to the question, “can you all of the sudden become allergic to peanuts?” is certainly yes. Food allergies can develop at any time in an individual’s life. However, it is important to recognize that adult-onset peanut allergy appears to be far less common than other potential allergies, such as shellfish.
Food allergies can develop in adults between the ages of 18 to 86. When the allergies occur in older adults, the symptoms tend to be severe. There are certain foods commonly associated with allergic reactions.
Although allergic conditions are often thought of as childhood disorders, the disease often persists into older age and can occasionally make its initial appearance in the elderly. Specific issues that arise when investigating allergies in the elderly patients are several.
Peanut allergy occurs when your immune system mistakenly identifies peanut proteins as something harmful. Direct or indirect contact with peanuts causes your immune system to release symptom-causing chemicals into your bloodstream. Exposure to peanuts can occur in various ways: Direct contact.
Because food allergies can develop suddenly, you need to take symptoms like facial swelling, hives, and dizziness seriously. This is especially true if those reactions occur when you’re eating foods that commonly trigger allergies such as shellfish, milk, peanuts, and tree nuts.
Adult-onset allergies are those allergy symptoms that manifest later in life. This could be anywhere from younger adulthood, such as in a person’s 20s, to a person’s senior years, when they are 70 or 80 years old.
Your healthcare provider may use a blood test to diagnose a peanut allergy. A blood test called an immunocap radioallergosorbent (RAST) checks the number of antibodies (immune response cells) in your blood. A higher number of certain types of antibodies can indicate an allergy.
Symptoms of peanut allergy can range from mild to severe. If you have a mild reaction, you may get a stomachache, a runny nose, itchy eyes, hives, or tingling in your lips or tongue. Your symptoms may start from within a few minutes to a few hours after eating peanuts or peanut products.
Some adult-onset food allergies arise from preexisting allergies to pollen, one of the most common environmental allergens. With the body already on high alert for pollen and anything resembling it, an overzealous immune system can become even more hypervigilant and mistake proteins in fruits and vegetables for pollen.
Elderly patients are at higher risk of food allergy due to their aging immune systems. As individuals age, so do their immune systems.
Symptoms often start very quickly, within an hour of having come into contact with a nut, and sometimes within minutes. Reactions that take place more than four hours after coming into contact with nuts are unlikely to be an allergy.
How common is peanut allergy? PEANUT ALLERGY IS THE SECOND MOST COMMON FOOD ALLERGY IN CHILDREN AND IS ON THE INCREASE. IT OCCURS IN ABOUT 1 IN 50 CHILDREN AND 1 IN 200 ADULTS. PEANUT IS THE MOST LIKELY FOOD TO CAUSE ANAPHYLAXIS AND DEATH.
Initial reactions occur at the first apparent exposure in 72% of patients, with a median age of 24 months, and most reactions occur in the home .