Can You Develop Allergies Later in Life?

Most people get allergies for the first time as a kid. However, they’re not just a childhood problem. If you’re an adult, your sniffling, sneezing, and coughing may be from allergies – even if you’ve never had them before.


Why Do Adults Develop Allergies?

The sudden onset of allergies is frustrating, but common. It’s not always clear why some people develop allergies later in life. Genetics may play a role, as do changes in your immune system over the course of your life. Adult-onset allergies occur most often in people in their 20s and 30s, though it’s possible to develop allergies at any age.

Moving to a new location is one common cause experts agree on. When you move to a new part of the country that has a variety of grass and trees you’ve never been exposed to, there’s a chance you can develop sudden outdoor allergies to your new environment.1

Allergies may also develop as your immune system changes. Your immune system’s tolerance to allergens may wane over time, or with age. You may lose tolerance to an allergen when you lose or reduce your exposure to that allergen.2

For instance, you may have grown up surrounded by your family’s dogs and cats, and you may not have exhibited symptoms during this time. But once you move out and live on your own without pets, your immune system may lose tolerance to the allergens produced by pets. Returning home to see your childhood dog or cat may, sadly, trigger the onset of pet allergic reactions you’ve never experienced before.3

How Common Are Adult Allergies?

About 13.1% of the Singapore population suffers from Allergic Rhinitis (AR)4, characterised by nasal symptoms triggered by substances known as allergens. Doctors don’t know exactly how many adults are diagnosed with allergies for the first time each year but upper respiratory tract infections is the leading condition seen at clinics, accounting for 29% of consultations.5

Allergies are caused when your immune system overreacts to an allergen . Thinking the allergen may be harmful, your body releases a substance called histamine , and it does so in order to help ‘fight’ the allergen. Histamines are what causes respiratory symptoms, red and watery eyes, itching sensations, and more.

How Can You Prevent Adult Allergies?

Sadly, there is no proven way to mitigate or prevent developing allergies in later life, since there’s no predicting which allergens an individual may turn out to be allergic to, or which allergens they may suddenly develop allergies to.6

Although it’s not clear why allergies suddenly turn on, it’s important to learn how to manage any new allergy symptoms you encounter. The rules are the same for adults as they are for kids:

  • Avoid the allergens whenever you can.
  • Take allergy medicines.
  • Consider allergy shots (immunotherapy).7

Moreso, to stay healthy, the rule of thumb is, as always:

  • To maintain a balanced diet; exercise regularly; and get enough rest.
  • Keep a clean and tidy home conducive to your health and your wellbeing. A clean home will also reduce the allergens in your immediate environment.
  • Take prescription medication only with your doctor’s approval, and be sure to stick to the appropriate dosage, to keep your immune system functioning normally.7

Is There Treatment for Adult Allergies?

A wide variety of solutions are available for adults to effectively manage your allergies. This often includes use of antihistamines, decongestants, nasal hygiene or saline sprays and nasal corticosteroid sprays. When allergy symptoms hit, testing from your doctor or healthcare professional can also narrow down the cause. Knowing what you’re allergic to can go a long way toward helping you find relief.

A convenient, over-the-counter allergy medication, Clarityn® provides fast-acting, non-drowsy allergy relief for over 200 allergens found in the home and in the outdoors, Be it early in your life or in adulthood, Clarityn® can be your go-to reprieve any time you’re having an allergic reaction.


  1. Mayo Clinic Q and A: Reasons for developing allergies later in life not always clear. Mayo Clinic. Accessed March 14, 2020.
  2. Allergy Facts. American College of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology. Accessed March 14, 2020.
  3. Adult-Onset Allergies. WebMD. Accessed March 14, 2020.
  4. Management of rhinosinusitis and allergic rhinitis. Accessed March 4, 2022
  5. What you need to know about allergies in Singapore. Accessed March 4, 2022
  6. American College of Allergy , Asthma & Immunology: “House Dust Allergy” and “Allergy Testing.” Accessed March 14, 2020.
  7. All About Nasal Allergies. WebMD. Accessed March 14, 2020.