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Allergies and the Elderly: What you need to know

It’s allergy season. Say hello to congestion, itchy eyes, running nose and headaches. For adults, these symptoms are annoying. For many, they may be severe resulting in the need for prescription medication. For aging adults though, they can be serious.

While itchy, watery eyes may not seem like a serious problem, in the elderly, the symptoms that come with seasonal allergies can cause serious complications.

If you’re a caregiver to an aging loved one, you shouldn’t overlook allergies as a potentially serious condition. As the pollen flies, here are some things to consider when it comes to allergies and the elderly.

Don’t Ignore Them

When allergy season rolls around, those who suffer from seasonal allergies start to moan and complain, roll their eyes and stock up on tissue. Many need prescription medication to find relief, but others can simply ignore them. For aging adults, ignoring the signs and symptoms of seasonal allergies can be dangerous.

 While a stuffed up nose is inconvenient for the average adults, for seniors suffering from chronic issues such as a heart condition or respiratory problems, any disruptions in breathing can cause larger problems. So while a simple over the counter remedy may suffice for a middle-aged sufferer, for many aging adults, allergies should be treated aggressively.

They are Often Overlooked

Because older adults often have a myriad of conditions ranging from moderate to severe, allergies are typically not a concern and doctors may often overlook them as they work to diagnose more serious problems. As a caregiver to your loved one, make sure to tell their doctor if you’ve noticed symptoms of allergies. Even if they are mild enough to avoid treatment, it’s important for their doctor to be aware of any symptoms that might complicate current conditions.

Typical Medications May Not Work

While many people reach for an antihistamine when their allergies act up, for an aging adult, this may not be the right choice. This medication can raise blood pressure, interact with other medications and cause severe side effects like a change in mood, urinary retention, dizziness and more. In the elderly, these side effects can have serious consequences. To avoid these issues, doctors may treat their allergies with a nasal steroid or topical medication.

Tips To Avoid Them

While there is no cure for allergies once they set in, there are things we can do to avoid the allergens that cause the sneezing and congestion we love so much. Since allergy symptoms can be so dangerous for older adults, avoiding them altogether is the best route, if possible. To avoid exposure to allergens, try:

  • Keep doors and windows closed
  • Use an air purifier
  • Try foods that fight inflammation like apples, walnuts, ginger, leafy greens and Vitamin C.
  • Be on the lookout for new treatments like antihistamine inhalers

*Taken from

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