Like the rest of the population, Seniors are not exempt from seasonal allergies. However, they frequently have additional complicating factors, such as chronic disease, that can compound the problem.
“Allergies have a larger impact on the lives and health of the elderly” says Christopher Randolph, M.D., member of the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology’s Asthma and Allergic Diseases in the Elderly Committee. And points to several ways caregivers can make allergy season bearable for the Seniors:
- Look for the signs: People falsely assume that the elderly do not get seasonal allergies when, in fact, they are just as likely as anyone to be affected when spring booms begin to appear – even if a loved one has not suffered from seasonal allergies in the past. It is important for caregivers to be on the lookout for the usual signs: sneezing, a runny nose, coughing and itchy eyes.
- Recognize their discomfort: Post nasal drip can be uncomfortable and make it difficult to breathe for anyone. However, allergies pose serious health risks for an older person with conditions such as COPD, heart disease or lung cancer.
- Alert their Physician: According to Randolph, rapid and aggressive treatment is the best practice when it comes to Seniors. Allergy concerns should be brought to the physician’s attention at the first sign, especially because, when focused on a Senior’s larger health issues, it can be difficult to diagnose allergies.
- Avoid traditional antihistamines: Antihistamines, the drug most commonly prescribed to treat allergies, can be dangerous to Seniors. According to Randolph, antihistamines can cause dangerous interactions with medications commonly prescribed to Seniors and can result in changes in mood, behavior and sleep patterns.
- Be mindful of diet and nutrition. There are certain fruits and vegetables that may aggravate allergies – a phenomenon known as oral allergy syndrome. Culprits include bananas, cantaloupe, cucumbers, honeydew, watermelon and raw zucchini.
- Minimize exposure: Keep windows shut and use air conditioning when possible. Cleaning air conditioning filters frequently, shutting car windows when traveling, and making sure our Seniors wear glasses when outside, are measures that can go a long way in helping them through allergy season.
- Be on the lookout for upcoming treatment options: Randolph points that there is a new type of treatment for allergies being developed specifically for the elderly. By combining an antihistamine with a steroid inhaler, this new treatment delivers the antihistamine directly into the nose, avoiding the unpleasant effects traditionally associated with the drug. Randolph expects the treatment to be available to the public in the near future.