Allergies are a common health concern that can affect individuals of all ages, including your senior loved one.
This article explores the signs, causes and preventive measures for allergies in older adults.
What is an allergy?
Allergies happen as an immune system response to a foreign substance, also called allergens, that’s not typically harmful to your body.
To keep you healthy, your immune system attacks anything that could put your body in danger.
This response can cause inflammation in the skin, sinuses, airways or digestive system. The severity of allergies varies from person to person and can range from minor irritation to anaphylaxis—a potentially life-threatening emergency.
While allergies are most commonly associated with children, they can appear at any age, or even come and go throughout a person’s lifetime.
What are the typical signs of allergies?
Allergy symptoms in adults can manifest in various ways, often depending on the allergen and your immune response.
Common symptoms include:
- Nasal congestion
- Runny nose
- Itchy or watery eyes
- Skin reactions like hives or eczema
In more severe cases, adults may experience respiratory issues such as:
- Shortness of breath
- Tightness in the chest
Some people also report gastrointestinal symptoms, which is more common in food-related allergies. These include:
- Abdominal pain
What are the most common senior allergies?
In older adults, the most common allergies are often related to environmental factors.
- Pollen from trees, grasses and weeds
- Dust mites
- Pet dander
Food allergies are also common, even if they haven’t triggered an allergic reaction in the past.
These foods include:
This change in sensitivity can be attributed to the natural aging process, which can alter the body’s immune response.
What are common causes of allergy symptoms for seniors?
Aging can lead to changes in the immune system, making it more or less sensitive, which is why some adults develop allergies later in life. When you’re exposed to a number of allergens throughout your lifetime, you may develop allergies as a senior.
Other contributing factors are medications and underlying health conditions. For instance, certain blood pressure medications can worsen allergy symptoms.
What should you do if you have allergy symptoms?
It’s important to identify and avoid your allergy triggers as much as possible.
When you’re experiencing allergy symptoms, the first step is to consult with a healthcare professional. They can help determine if your symptoms are indeed due to allergies and suggest appropriate treatment options.
Treatment for allergies in adults may include:
- Over-the-counter or prescription antihistamines
- Nasal sprays
- Immunotherapy (allergy shots)
Prevention of allergic reactions
Here are some tips on how to prevent allergic reactions, especially in older adults.
For environment-related allergies, it’s best to:
- Stay indoors on high-pollen days
- Use air purifiers to reduce indoor allergens
- Keep a clean home free from dust mites and pet dander
For food allergies, practice careful dietary management. This includes:
- Reading food labels
- Asking about ingredients when eating out
- Avoiding cross-contamination
In general, seniors should be cautious about new food and medication, as these can be potential triggers for allergic reactions.
Understanding and managing allergy symptoms in adults, especially in the senior population, is crucial for maintaining a healthy and comfortable lifestyle. Recognizing the signs of allergies, being aware of common triggers, and taking preventative measures can significantly improve the quality of life for those dealing with allergies in their later years.