It’s finally summer! Now that the long, cold winter and wet springtime are over, we can at last get outside. For older loved ones, getting out into the fresh air, sunshine, and beauty of nature is extremely important for both physical and mental health. Unfortunately, however, it can trigger seasonal allergies. And this is just one type of allergy that becomes more prevalent as people get older, making it crucial to know tips for managing allergies safely for seniors.
What Types of Allergies Affect Older Adults?
Along with pollen allergies, which affect millions of people of all ages, older adults are at a heightened risk for the following types of allergic conditions:
- Skin allergies
- Food and medication allergies
- Allergic reactions to insect bites or stings
Because allergies can be very dangerous and even deadly, it’s important to understand the particular allergies affecting older loved ones and what treatment options are available. Start by setting up an appointment with the primary care physician to find out if allergy testing is required. If so, a referral will be made to an allergist, who is able to test for a wide range of possible allergens and prescribe an appropriate treatment plan.
Symptoms, Treatments, and Tips for Managing Allergies Safely
Here’s what an older adult could be experiencing during an allergic episode, and what the allergist may recommend to help:
- Pollen allergies: Common symptoms include nasal congestion or a runny nose, sneezing, coughing, and itchiness in the eyes, nose, and/or throat. Over-the-counter nasal steroids which can be sprayed straight into the nose are usually highly effective. It’s also helpful to be mindful of pollen levels. On days when the pollen count is higher, encourage older adults to remain inside.
- Insect allergies: The venom from bees or fire ants can cause redness, pain, and swelling. When the immune system overreacts, however, serious symptoms such as 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 immediately if a negative reaction is noted.
- Skin allergies: With thinner, drier skin, older loved ones are more susceptible to allergic reactions from poison ivy, oak, or sumac, along with skin care products such as lotion and soap. Swollen, itchy, or red skin can be soothed with topical steroids and ointments and/or antihistamines. Scratching will likely make the symptoms worse. If you notice a rash that spreads quickly or is causing pain or any kind of yellow or green discharge or fever, get medical assistance right away.
- Food allergies: Just like insect allergies, food allergies may result in 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 essential. The allergist might provide an epi-pen for the person 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 typical allergy-inducing medications. Symptoms can vary widely but could include hair loss, swelling, breathing problems, vomiting or diarrhea, nausea, and itching. Consult with the physician as soon as possible if an allergy to a medication is suspected.
At Live Free Home Health Care, our in-home care professionals are skilled in observing and reporting any changes in condition immediately. Contact us at 603-217-0149 to find out more ways we can help the older adults you love stay safe, healthy, and thriving with our award-winning in-home care services. Our services are provided in Concord, Epsom, New Hampton, Tilton, Bow, and the surrounding areas.