Food allergies becoming more common in adults, Houston researchers say

A food allergy can happen with almost any kind of food, at any age, but some are more common than others.

One percent of Americans develop food allergies as they get older, and that number is growing, according to Baylor College of Medicine.

In many cases, these patients have no idea that it can be a food they’ve eaten their entire life.

Dipali Pathak was 34 years old and eating lunch with friends.

“I ordered something I ordered plenty of times before,” Pathak said. “I walked to the bathroom to go wash my hands and noticed I had hives on my face.”

She had no clue that her shrimp tacos were about to send her to the emergency room.

“I felt like I was going to blackout and all of these symptoms started to come on quickly,” she said.

From the time she ate to the time she was on an ambulance was about an hour. It happened fast.

She said she never knew adults can develop food allergies.

Dr. David Corry, Baylor College of Medicine Pulmonary and Critical Care Medicine and Allergy, said adult food allergies are happening more and more.

He said adults mostly develop allergies to:

  • shellfish
  • nuts
  • legumes
  • apples
  • oranges
  • kiwis
  • bananas
  • mangos
  • milk
  • meat

Why do some experience this well into adulthood?

“It could be related to the western lifestyle, so our habit of giving antibiotics frequently, and other drugs that modify the immune system and other things we might be doing that modify the microbiome,” Dr. Corry explained.

The microbiome is your gut health. Dr. Corry said more research is needed to determine how lifestyle habits change the way our systems respond to ordinary things (like food).

For now, Pathak said she avoids all shellfish and carries a card, bought off Amazon, that explains her allergy in multiple languages. She takes it to restaurants and on trips in case there’s a language barrier.

“I keep an EpiPen with me at all times and then when I go to a restaurant I indicate that I have a severe shellfish allergy,” she said.

Dr. Corry said the main treatment is avoiding the foods that trigger allergies.