It’s finally summer! After the long, cold winter and wet springtime, we can finally enjoy the great outdoors. For older adults, getting out into the fresh air, sunshine, and beauty of nature is very important for both physical and mental health. Regrettably, however, it can also trigger seasonal allergic reactions. And this is just one kind of allergy that becomes more prevalent as people age, necessitating the importance of understanding senior allergy care options.
What Types of Allergies Affect Older Adults?
In addition to pollen allergies, which affect millions of people of all ages, older adults are at a heightened 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 extremely dangerous and even potentially fatal, senior allergy care begins with knowing the particular allergies impacting the individual and what treatments are offered. It begins by scheduling an appointment with the primary care physician to see if allergy testing is required. If so, a referral will likely be made to an allergist, who can test for a variety of potential allergens and prescribe an appropriate treatment solution.
Common Allergy Symptoms and Treatments for Older Adults
Here’s what an older adult may be experiencing during an allergic episode, and what the allergist may recommend to help:
- Medication allergies: Insulin, antibiotics, antiseizure and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, and anything containing iodine are common allergy-inducing medications. Symptoms can vary widely but may include hair loss, swelling, breathing problems, vomiting or diarrhea, nausea, and itching. Talk with the doctor as soon as possible if an allergy to a medication is suspected.
- Allergies to pollen: Standard symptoms include itchiness in the throat, nose, and eyes, coughing, sneezing, and nasal congestion or a runny nose. Over-the-counter nasal steroids that are sprayed directly into the nose tend to be highly effective. It’s also helpful to keep close track of pollen levels. On days when the pollen count is high, encourage older adults to remain in an air-conditioned environment.
- Allergies to insects: The venom from fire ants or bees can cause redness, pain, and swelling. When the immune system overreacts, however, extreme 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 bad reaction is noted in an older adult.
- Skin allergies: With drier, thinner skin, older loved ones tend to be at greater risk for allergic reactions to poison sumac, ivy, or oak, in addition to skin care items 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 yellow or green discharge or fever, get medical help right away.
- Allergies to food: Similar to insect allergies, food allergies can lead to dire consequences. The most common allergy-inducing foods include peanuts, shellfish, eggs, milk, wheat, soy, and tree nuts. Food allergy symptoms range between congestion and sneezing to hives and itching, vomiting, diarrhea, and anaphylaxis. Prevention is crucial. The allergist may provide an epi-pen for the person to carry all the time to use at the first indication of an allergic reaction to food.
At Hearts at Home In-Home Care, our caregivers are skilled in recognizing and reporting any changes in condition immediately. Contact us at 913-440-4209 to learn more ways we can help the older adults you love stay safe, healthy, and thriving with our award-winning in-home care services. The Hearts at Home team provides care in Kansas City, Mission Hills, Overland Park, Lenexa, Leawood, and the nearby areas.