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 beauty of nature, fresh air, and sunshine is particularly important for both mental and physical health. Regrettably, however, it can also trigger seasonal allergic reactions. And this is just one type of allergy that becomes more prevalent as people age. As a result, managing allergies in seniors is crucial.
What Types of Allergies Affect Seniors?
Along with pollen allergies, which affect millions of people of all ages, seniors are at an increased risk for the following types of allergic conditions:
- Food and medication allergies
- Skin allergies
- Allergic reactions to stings or insect bites
Because allergies can be very dangerous and even life-threatening, it’s essential to know the particular allergies impacting the individual and what treatments are offered. Start by scheduling an appointment with the primary care physician to see if allergy testing is needed. If that’s the case, a referral will likely be made to an allergist, who is able to test for a wide array of potential allergens and prescribe an appropriate treatment plan.
Common Allergy Symptoms and Tips for Managing Allergies in Seniors
Here’s what an older adult might be experiencing during an allergic episode, and what the allergist may recommend to help:
- 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 can include itching and hives, nausea, diarrhea, or vomiting, breathing problems, swelling, and hair loss. Talk to the physician immediately if an allergy to a medication is suspected.
- Allergies to pollen: 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 are sprayed straight into the nose tend to be highly effective. It is also helpful to keep an eye on pollen levels. On days when the pollen count is higher, encourage older adults to stay in an air-conditioned environment.
- Insect allergies: The venom from fire ants or bees can cause swelling, redness, and pain. When the immune system overreacts, however, dangerous symptoms such as shortness of breath, dizziness, coughing, nausea, 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.
- Allergies to food: As with insect allergies, food allergies may cause dire consequences. The most prevalent allergy-inducing foods include tree nuts, soy, wheat, milk, eggs, shellfish, and peanuts. Food allergy symptoms range from congestion and sneezing to hives and itching, vomiting, diarrhea, and anaphylaxis. Prevention is key. The allergist might provide an epi-pen for the individual to carry at all times and use at the first indication of an allergic reaction to food.
- Skin allergies: With drier, thinner skin, older adults are usually more susceptible to allergic reactions to poison ivy, oak, or sumac, in addition to skin care products 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. In the event that you notice a rash that spreads quickly or is causing pain or any type of green or yellow discharge or fever, get medical attention right away.
At Abby Senior Care, our in-home care professionals are skilled in recognizing and reporting any changes in condition immediately. Contact us at 303-699-8840 to learn more ways we are able to help the individuals you love stay safe, healthy, and thriving with our top-rated in-home care services. We serve families in Arvada, Denver, Greenwood Village, Littleton, Aurora, and the surrounding areas.