Are Allergies Inherited?
While allergies are often triggered by exposure to environmental elements such as pollen, mold, dust mites or air pollution, genetics are known to play a major role in a person’s chances of developing allergies.
And while specific allergies are not inherited, a tendency toward having allergies is. In fact, children with one allergic parent have a 33% chance of developing allergies, and with two allergic parents, it’s a 70% chance.
According to Dr. Maeve O’Connor, founder and Medical Director at Allergy Asthma and Immunology Relief of Charlotte, North Carolina, “When a person with no family history of allergies gets exposed to environmental allergens, they are less likely to develop allergies than someone with familial links.”
Are children allergic to the same allergens as their parents?
Unlike hair and eye color, allergies stem from the interactions of a multitude of genes, some providing protection, and others contributing to the development of allergies. Therefore, people may not inherit their parents’ specific allergies to ragweed or pets, but will have an increased likelihood of developing allergies in general.
Many studies on twins have also shown compelling results. In general, when one identical twin suffers from hay fever, asthma, or eczema, the other twin has it in 50-80% of cases. In fraternal twins, this drops to 25-40%.
Dr. O’Connor adds, “Twins have a much higher propensity to develop allergies between themselves, as compared to non-twin siblings or other family members.
Although identical twins have the same genetic basis, their genes respond differently to environmental factors over time. This can manifest as different types of allergies for each twin – one may develop dust mite allergies, while the other may develop ragweed allergies.”
For those who develop allergies as a child, their symptoms can often disappear in adulthood, but recur later in life. In some cases, allergy symptoms may show up for the first time in adulthood.
“Allergen tolerance levels are known to change, due to a few factors: changes in environmental exposures over time, weakened immune systems with age, and hormonal changes. And family genetic history carries an increased risk of developing allergies at any age,” says Dr. O’Connor.
More research continues to be done to understand shifts in allergen tolerance and sensitivity over time. And much remains to be discovered to deepen the understanding of the role genetics plays in allergies.
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In some cases, treatment may require a combination of natural, over-the-counter, prescribed medications and other alternatives. If your symptoms persist, consider seeing a board-certified allergist to get a proper diagnosis.