If you’re suffering from a stuffy nose, constant sneezing and watery eyes that have lasted way longer than a typical cold, it could be allergies — even if you’ve never had them before.
According to the American College of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology (ACAAI), you can still experience allergy symptoms for the first time as an adult. Here’s what you need to know.
Immune System Reactions
Allergic reactions begin in your immune system, somewhat by accident. That means your body mistakenly tries to attack harmless substances you breathe, eat, drink or touch, such as pollen.
This reaction causes your body to release chemicals (called histamines) to fight the substance. Histamines are responsible for causing allergy symptoms like a runny, itchy or stuffy nose, watery eyes, ticklish throat or dry cough, sneezing, and even adult-onset asthma.
Once your immune system has responded this way to a substance, your body will be on high alert for it, as it’s now considered an allergen. Interestingly, children can outgrow many allergies as their immune systems become less sensitive.
Allergic reactions begin most often in childhood, as kids have more sensitive immune systems and are typically exposed to new substances every day — but allergic reactions can also happen to adults at different times for different reasons, according to the ACAAI.
As adults, we’re exposed to new substances if we move to a new climate or country, get a new pet or take a job in a new field. Just moving or working in a new building can present new triggers, such as cleaning products, chemicals or even mold you’ve never been exposed to, all of which can result in new allergy symptoms.
Other common adult allergy triggers include low immunity following an illness or even hormonal changes that women experience during pregnancy (and afterward). While you can develop any type of allergy in adulthood — like allergies to pollen, pet dander, dust mites, mold, insects, certain drugs and even foods — your allergy symptoms may lessen over time as your body adjusts to any new exposure.
However, you might have the genetic predisposition for allergies (known as “atopy”), which means you’re more likely to develop allergies at some time in your life even if you didn’t have them as a child.
Common Allergens in Tennessee
Tennessee can be one of the most challenging places to live if you have seasonal allergies, due to the state’s abnormally long growing season. According to the National Allergy Bureau Pollen and Mold Report, grasses and just three types of trees (Maple, Oak and Birch) cause most seasonal and outdoor allergies in Tennessee.
If your reactions or symptoms aren’t related to a cold or virus and you’ve never had allergies before, the ACAAI suggests making an appointment with an allergist or immunologist.
These providers have years of experience and the training to test for allergens, properly diagnose your condition and prescribe an effective allergy treatment plan to help you feel better. If you’re suffering seasonal allergies in Tennessee, there are a number of ways you can reduce your exposure to seasonal allergens and find relief.
Advice or recommendations are for informational or educational purposes only, not a substitute for a visit or consultation with your doctor.
BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee members can access wellness-related discounts on fitness products, gym memberships, healthy eating and more through Blue365®. BCBST members can also use tools and resources to help improve health and well-being by logging into BlueAccess and going to the in the Member Wellness Center under the Managing Your Health tab.