Ahh, summertime! Now that the long, cold winter and wet springtime are over, we can at last get outside. For older adults, getting out into the beauty of nature, fresh air, and sunshine is extremely important for both mental and physical health. Sadly, however, it can also trigger seasonal allergies in older adults. And this is just one kind of allergy that becomes more prevalent as people age.
What Allergies Affect Older Adults?
In addition to pollen allergies, which affect millions of people of all ages, older adults are at a heightened risk for the following types of allergic conditions:
- Allergic reactions to stings or insect bites
- Medication and food allergies
- Skin allergies
Because allergies can be dangerous and even life-threatening, it’s crucial to know the particular allergies affecting an individual and what treatment options exist. It begins by scheduling an appointment with the primary care physician to see if allergy testing is required. If so, a referral will be made to an allergist, who can test for a wide range of possible allergens and prescribe an appropriate treatment plan.
Common allergy symptoms and treatments for Older Adults
Here’s what an older adult may be experiencing during an allergic reaction, and what the allergist may recommend to help:
- Allergies to pollen: Common symptoms include nasal congestion or a runny nose, sneezing, coughing, and itchiness in the eyes, nose, and/or throat. OTC nasal steroids that are sprayed straight into the nose are often highly effective. It’s also helpful to keep track of pollen levels. On days when the pollen count is higher, encourage older adults to stay inside.
- Insect allergies: The venom from bees or fire ants can cause swelling, redness, and pain. When the immune system overreacts, however, dangerous symptoms like dizziness, nausea, shortness of breath, coughing and more can occur, along with anaphylaxis – as quickly as five minutes after a bite or sting. Call 911 right away if a negative reaction is noted in an older loved one.
- Food allergies: As with insect allergies, food allergies may cause dire consequences. The most prevalent allergy-inducing foods include peanuts, shellfish, eggs, milk, wheat, soy, and tree nuts. Food allergy symptoms range from congestion and sneezing to hives and itching, vomiting, diarrhea, and anaphylaxis. Prevention is key. The allergist may provide an epi-pen for the individual to carry at all times and use at the first sign of an allergic reaction to food.
- Allergies to medications: Insulin, antibiotics, antiseizure and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, and anything containing iodine are common allergy-inducing medications. Symptoms can vary widely but could include itching and hives, nausea, diarrhea, or vomiting, breathing problems, swelling, and hair loss. Talk with the doctor immediately if an allergy to a medication is suspected.
- Skin allergies: With drier, thinner skin, older adults are more vulnerable to allergic reactions to poison oak, ivy, or sumac, as well as skin care items such as lotion and soap. Itchy, red, or swollen skin can be soothed with topical steroids and ointments and/or antihistamines. Scratching will make the symptoms worse. If you notice a rash that spreads quickly or is causing pain or any kind of green or yellow discharge or fever, get medical attention right away.
At Anthem Home Care, our care professionals are skilled in recognizing and reporting any changes in condition immediately. Contact us at 361-643-2323 to learn more ways we can help the seniors you love stay safe, healthy, and thriving with our award-winning in-home care services. Our care providers serve families in Rockport, Ingleside, Aransas Pass, Sinton, Portland, and the surrounding areas.