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BCM - Baylor College of Medicine

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Baylor College of Medicine News

Never say never when it comes to allergies

If you've never had allergies before, don't consider yourself out of the woods just yet. According to an allergy expert at Baylor College of Medicine, it's possible for allergies to develop over time, depending on several factors.

Allergies typically develop when the body is exposed to an allergen and becomes sensitized to it.

"The next time the body is exposed to the same allergen, the immune system recognizes it, and you may have an allergic reaction to it," said Dr. Madhu Narra, assistant professor of medicine at BCM.

Late life allergies

Although many people develop allergies as children and young adults, it is possible to develop allergies later in life.

Temperature and weather changes can be a factor, said Narra. For example, a drought can be beneficial to those who are allergic to grass pollen, as grass does not grow as well and pollinate in drought conditions.

Changes in humidity also play a role in allergies since some molds do well in humidity and other molds grow even when the humidity is low, said Narra.

Symptoms of allergies include prolonged nasal, sinus and eye troubles. Those with seasonal allergies may have symptoms for several weeks, whereas those with allergies to things such as dust mites may suffer year-round.

Wherever you go, allergies follow

Allergies depend on what you're sensitized to, said Narra. This can depend on where you live. However, allergies are not predictable, so physicians advise not to move to another city or state just based on allergies.

"You may develop new allergies in another city," he said. "There are certain trees, grasses and weeds that cross-react because they are in the same family." Besides, some allergens like dust mites can be there wherever you go.

According to Narra, it's important to get tested to confirm what the allergic response is related to. However, it is possible to have a non-allergic cause for your symptoms, meaning that the nose is very sensitive and it reacts to irritants in the atmosphere rather than to allergies.

Over the counter antihistamines are a treatment option for allergies, as is avoiding what you're allergic to, such as dust mites and pets. Prescription nasal sprays can also be helpful, but symptoms can come back if you stop using the spray. Allergy shots are an option if you've had a positive blood or skin test for allergens, and it can take a few months to see results from the allergy shots.