As a kid, I really resented the fact that we couldn’t get a cat or dog. Both my mom and brother were really allergic. We also did things like close the windows in the summer when people were cutting their grass, and eventually, got a fake Christmas tree. Seasonal allergies and pet allergies were abundant in our household. Even our guinea pigs (as close as we got to legit pets) were secretly giving my mom allergy problems for years—something we didn’t even realize until those obnoxious little buggers left us for a better place and she suddenly could breathe normally again. But I was always safe from the sniffling and sneezing.
So imagine my surprise when, about three years ago, I realized damn, I have allergies. My nose and eyes get insanely itchy when the seasons are changing (early spring and fall). And spending some time with a friend’s dog will leave me scratching my eyes out for the next 12 hours. Sure, I always sneezed a little more in the beginning of spring like many people, but I never had real allergies that had to be treated. And I dreamed of the day I could move out and finally get a dog—my dad even told me he’d buy it for me when that day came.
What gives? How did this happen? And WHY ME? Well, as it turns out, developing allergies as an adult is extremely common. And there’s really no way to know if it’ll happen to you.
There are a few reasons you may get allergies later in life—some you can control, and others, you really can’t.
Allergies happen when our bodies start to recognize a harmless thing, like pollen or animal dander, as a threat. Our immune systems react and release chemicals, such as histamines, to fight the “intruder.” These chemicals also cause symptoms that we know as allergies—sneezing, itching, hives, and swelling, to name a few.
My family history of allergies may be partly to blame, experts told me. “Even just having one parent with allergies puts you at higher risk of having allergies later in life,” Purvi Parikh, M.D., an…