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What Causes Chronic Allergies?

(continued)

Do Allergies Get Worse?

It's hard to predict how an allergy will develop. Some people -- most often children -- may outgrow an allergy completely. Others find that as they pass out of middle age and get older, their allergy symptoms become less severe. That's because the immune system weakens with age, and perhaps can't muster as strong a reaction to the allergen.

But usually, once you have an allergy, it doesn't go away on its own. And some people find that their allergies just get worse over time. That's especially true of allergies to foods, latex, or bee stings, which can result in more serious reactions with each exposure.

Obviously, external factors play a huge role in how allergy symptoms develop. All it takes is a heavy pollen season, or a new job in a moldy office, for allergies to flare up worse than ever.

Developing Additional Allergies

If allergy symptoms have worsened, there's another possible explanation. You might have just developed a second -- or third, or fourth -- allergy without realizing it. Anyone with allergic tendencies is at a higher risk of getting more of them. So if one year, your ragweed symptoms suddenly seem much worse, you might actually be reacting to another allergen that's also in the air.

Multiple allergies can interact in unexpected ways. For instance, up to a third of people with nasal allergies to pollens also have allergies to foods which have similar proteins in them, like vegetables and fruits. This is called oral allergy syndrome. You could have more severe allergic reactions if you're exposed to both at once -- say by eating a banana at the height of ragweed allergy season.

Taking Control of Allergy Symptoms

If you have allergies, don't ignore them. Allergy symptoms rarely go away on their own. And there's evidence that poorly managed allergies can lead to more severe symptoms -- ear infections, sinus infections, and even full-blown asthma.

So take your allergy symptoms seriously and see your doctor. Not only will regular medical treatment and lifestyle changes help end sniffling and sneezing now, but it can also protect you from more serious complications in the future.

WebMD Medical Reference

Reviewed by Kimball Johnson, MD on August 02, 2012
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