Runny nose, watery eyes, and an itchy throat – sounds pretty much like any common allergy, right? While allergies are usually not life-threatening or a major health concern, they can pose a serious threat to older adults.
Allergy reactions are one the most common immunological diseases and represent one of the most widespread and fast-growing chronic human health problems, especially among seniors.
What makes allergies so dangerous to seniors is that they can complicate other chronic conditions such as asthma or any pre-existing respiratory or cardiovascular problems. Antihistamines commonly used to cure allergies can interfere with some of the medications seniors take and also cause an increase in blood pressure. Allergy medications can also sometimes cause dizziness and sleepiness, which then increases the risk of a fall and injury.
Moreover, research suggests that age-related changes to the immune system may leave older adults at greater risk for autoimmune diseases, infections and allergic inflammation. Fortunately, there are several ways to manage allergies sans the side effects. Here are some tips to help you or your loved one stay hale and hearty during the allergy season.
Pay attention to the symptoms
While usually, people develop allergies early on, they can crop up at any age. So, just because your elderly loved one has never had allergies before doesn’t mean they can’t develop them now.
Adult-onset allergies can seem like they have come out of nowhere, but it is actually because of exposure to new allergens in the environment, food, and changes in the immune system. It is even possible that one fine day, you suddenly become allergic to something you have been exposed to almost every day without any adverse effects.
Keep an eye out for common symptoms of allergy such as hives, difficulty breathing, sneezing, runny nose or watery eyes. If you or your elderly loved ones experience mild or severe symptoms, it’s important to address the same and contact a healthcare practitioner immediately.
Minimize exposure to triggers
One of the most effective ways to manage allergy symptoms is to recognize allergy triggers and reduce their exposure to them. Pollen, dust, grass, smoke, and mould are some of the common allergens.
Staying indoors with closed windows is the best way to avoid triggers like pollen and grass. When outside, wearing sunglasses and a mask, which a lot of anyway do owing to COVID-19, is a good counter to pollen allergy. This ensures that the pollen doesn’t come in direct contact with the eyes and mouth.
While inside, make it a point to clean regularly and remove traces of dust or mould build-up. Use an air conditioner or a fan to keep the air fresh inside. Also, remember to change curtains and bedsheets regularly with anti-allergen detergents. By taking precautions like these, you can reduce the influence of allergens in your or your loved one’s life.
Consult a doctor, and go natural when possible
Usually, our go-to response to dealing with seasonal allergies is over-the-counter medications. However, as we mentioned above, antihistamines, which are commonly used to control the effects of allergies, can be dangerous for seniors. On the other hand, some of the decongestants commonly used to address allergies may increase blood pressure and heart rate and lead to insomnia or drowsiness. So, before taking any OTC medication, it is extremely important to consult a doctor who is aware of the case history and any existing medication and conditions.
You can also give try some common home or natural remedies that may help manage the symptoms. Saline nasal irrigation is one such remedy that can work wonders in case of allergic rhinitis. Buying a high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filter for your house can help trap airborne irritants such as pollen, dust, and pet hair. On the other hand, adding a dehumidifier to a room can prevent the growth of mildew and mould in your house.
With seniors, owing to some of the medication they take, doctors may overlook some of the symptoms or misattribute them to other health conditions or medication side effects. So, if you notice any changes or reactions in your loved one, make sure you consult a healthcare practitioner as soon as possible.