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Why do some develop food allergies as adults?

ATLANTA – The delight over a plate of succulent lobster sometimes vanishes when we develop food allergies late in life.

Most people develop food allergies as children and never outgrow it.

But 1-2% of adults will suddenly find themselves swelling, vomiting, or worse after eating a food they’ve enjoyed most of their life.


Dr. Brian Vickery, Director of the Food Allergy Center at Emory University Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta, says many adults think they have a food allergy that is actually just an aversion or mild intolerance.

The mystery surrounds those who tolerate foods for years only to develop allergies late in life.

“This is not common, but can occur,” says Dr. Vickery.

Vickery points to the case of former NFL great Adrian Peterson, who was able to tolerate shellfish most of his life but at the age of 27 became violently ill after eating seafood gumbo.

Unfortunately, it isn’t clear exactly why this happens, but there are theories.

Some adults who are allergic to tree pollens can suddenly find themselves suffering allergic reactions to some raw fruits and vegetables. The proteins in some tree pollens are the same as those in fruits and veggies, and while you’re technically not allergic to the food, repeated exposure can trick your body and cause your lips and tongue to swell.

Dr. Vickery pointed us to a study that indicates a tick bite might trigger some food allergies.

The Lone Star Tick is found right here in the southeast and there have been cases of adults who, after a bite from the Lone Star tick, found themselves allergic to red meat.

“It is not yet clear what happens during or after the tick bite,” says Dr. Vickery. “but fastinating new research promises to unlock some of these secrets. Although it is not likely that tick bites explain all adult-onside food allergies, a better understanding of how this process works will very likely shed important light.”