Developing Allergies at 40

So, I’m turning 40 this year, and overall, I’m good with that. To me, 40 is an achievement. I’ve earned 40. It’s a number I’ll wear with pride.

I’m not thrilled that my night vision isn’t the same as it used to be, and I’m more than a little annoyed at the adults who lied to me at 15 when they said acne was just a teenager thing. But overall, even the little health changes like these aren’t a big issue. I’m almost 40, and it’s pretty fabulous.

The one thing that does seem to be an actual problem, however, is my allergies. As a child, I had lots of allergies. My poor mom was a parent pre-EpiPens, so she learned to carry (and force me to take) Benadryl at the first sign of a reaction. She dutifully suffered through holding me down for the allergist’s scratch tests. She dragged me to the pediatrician every. single. week. for my allergy shots. She dealt with it, and so did I. I’m pretty sure, looking back, that it was worse for her than it was for me, as I was no picnic when it came to doctors and shots. Side note: call Mom more often.

Silicone Allergy Alert Band

With allergy shots and time, most of my allergies have faded away. I can drink apple juice, which was off limits when I was a kid. I can handle shot-term exposure to a cat without multiple doses of Benadryl. I’m not in constant fear of a bee sting. In short, for the most part, I simply don’t have allergic reactions like I did as a child. Or I didn’t, until around age 35.

At 35, I developed migraines and found out I’m allergic to a couple of medications related to migraines: Immitrex (for the migraine itself) and Phernergan (for the nausea that comes with it). After that, it seemed nearly every new medication I was given caused an allergic reaction. For instance, I needed Septra for bacterial bronchitis and found that it caused throat and tongue swelling (Side note: The doctor noted that Septra is a Sulfa drug, so this makes me more likely to react to any Sulfa drug, not just Septra). Something has shifted, and I just seem to be developing new allergies.

So it wasn’t altogether surprising (although it was annoying and then scary) this Monday morning when, as I was going about my business here at Lauren’s Hope, my lips swelled up like I had gotten a monster bee sting. Given the lack of bees in the office, food allergies seemed most likely. But I had not eaten or drunk anything unusual. I was just typing away, drinking my coffee. And I absolutely refuse to believe I have developed a coffee allergy.

After an initial dose of Benadryl did nothing, our CEO, LeAnn, took me straight to Urgent Care, where I drew some pretty bold stares that let me know I was not looking so great. I got situated in the exam room where the nurse promptly asked me what, if any, known allergies I have.

Filigree Cuff for Allergies

Now, normally, I can rattle off this list pretty quickly. But I was an hour into a Benadryl on a definitely-not-full stomach. I was loopy, to put it mildly. So my answer was … “Let’s look at my medical ID.”

TARA COHEN
MULT DRUG ALGYS:
PHENERGAN PERCODAN
IMMITREX SULFAS PCN
SEE WALLET CARD

Having my medical ID bracelet on was a real help. Being able to easily and quickly refer to a list of my drug allergies really moved things along and helped ensure I didn’t forget anything important.

After a shot each of Prednisone and Epinephrine, a not-quite-horrible-but-also-not-fun experience, I had to sit for a bit before being given the all clear. The doctor told me if the swelling didn’t go down immediately, he would be sending me to the ER. Fortunately, the medications worked, and I was dismissed with EpiPen and Prednisone prescriptions and a reminder to follow up with my Primary Care Physician.

And so, Monday afternoon, I put in a call to my doctor’s office and made an appointment for allergy testing. Because today, I got lucky. I wasn’t alone, so I had help. And the swelling only mildly impacted my tongue. It didn’t restrict my breathing in any way; but it really could have. Special thanks to LeAnn for her quick decision-making. Had I waited, I probably would have ended up in the Emergency Room.

Epipen and Small Fun Glass Medical ID

The next day, upon arriving at work, I gave brief EpiPen usage reminders around the office and let everyone know where I would be keeping my rescue meds. After all, it’s one thing to have rescue meds nearby. It’s another for the people in your life to know where they are and how to use them.

What You Need To Know About Adult-Onset Allergies

There are a few things you need to know about adult-onset allergies:

  • New allergies can (and do) develop at any age. In fact, half of all new allergies are diagnosed in adults, primarily those in their early 40s.
  • Things we’ve been exposed to repeatedly without incident can, one day, suddenly cause a reaction.
  • Allergies we thought we “outgrew” can crop back up in adulthood.
  • Moving can trigger new allergic reactions, although it may take 3 to 5 years of exposure to a region’s environmental allergens for an allergy to develop.

In particular, food allergies can cause life-threatening reactions. If you believe you have developed a food allergy, contact your Primary Care Physician or a Board-Certified Allergist / Immunologist for testing and treatment.

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