A Complete Guide to Managing Seasonal Allergies in Seniors

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A seasonal allergy is an allergic reaction that occurs at certain times of the year, such as spring or fall. Popularly known as hay fever, this kind of allergy is caused by pollens from trees, weeds, and grasses. Pollen is airborne and during spring and fall it spreads rapidly as pollen production rises at this time. The pollen settles on a person’s skin, nose, and lungs resulting in an allergic reaction. It is estimated that around 8% of Americans suffer from seasonal allergies each year.  

Why is Seasonal Allergy Harmful for Seniors?

Seasonal allergies put seniors at significant risk as it largely affects their body’s immune reaction. The airways become inflamed and swollen. Therefore, it increases the risk of other chronic conditions such as severe nasal congestion, asthma, or any pre-existing respiratory and cardiovascular issues. 

 

Moreover, age-related changes to the immune system increase the risk for autoimmune diseases, infections, and allergic inflammation in the elderly. Identifying the symptoms and consulting a primary care physician for adults can save the elderly from developing severe health complications that may result from seasonal allergies.  

Symptoms of Seasonal Allergies

Symptoms of Seasonal Allergies

Although the symptoms of seasonal allergies may vary for every individual, there are some common signs to help identify allergic reactions. It is difficult to distinguish between a common cold and allergy symptoms in the elderly, and only a primary care physician can tell the difference. The usual signs of seasonal allergy include: 

  • Sneezing 

  • Runny nose

  • Red and watery eyes with itchiness 

  • Headache 

  • Coughing 

  • Congestion 

  • Dry cough

  • Sore throat 

Tips to Prevent and Manage Seasonal Allergies

Tips to Prevent Seasonal Allergies

The most effective way to manage seasonal allergies in older adults is to follow a few precautionary measures. Here are a few proven tips to help seniors avoid seasonal allergies. 

Limit outdooring

An increase in environmental allergens like pollen, mold spores, trees, and grass in particular seasons is the primary cause of seasonal allergies. The easiest way to prevent seasonal allergies is to stay indoors during the hours when pollen counts are the highest – which is in the early morning. To avoid spring allergies, schedule outdoor activities after heavy rainfall as the moisture prevents the pollen from spreading.  

Use air conditioners and dehumidifiers

Use high-efficiency particulate air filters in your air conditioner to filter contaminants out of the home atmosphere. HVAC units in air conditioners filter out harmful particles and prevent allergens from spreading. Besides, the humidity in your indoor environment increases the number of allergy-causing bacteria, mildew, and mold. By balancing the humidity, a dehumidifier reduces the presence of allergens in the air.  

Clean and change the filters at regular intervals to avoid any build-up in the AC or dehumidifier. A clogged filter can circulate high amounts of dust and debris throughout the house and result in the exacerbation of symptoms.  

Reduce exposure to triggers

Here are a few preventive measures seniors can take to minimize their exposure to allergy triggers: 

  • Avoid mowing the lawn and maintain distance from freshly cut grass. 

  • Don’t hang your clothes or bedding outside to dry. Instead, machine-dry your clothes to avoid contact with pollen.  

  • Wear sunglasses and masks to keep allergens like pollen and dust particles at bay.  

  • Use hypoallergenic pillows, covers, and bedding. 

Maintain hygiene 

Make sure that your surroundings are hygienic to prevent contact with allergens. Always wash your hands after returning home from outside. Make sure to take a shower after spending an extended period outdoors. Use a vacuum cleaner with advanced filtration to prevent allergens from spreading. 

Monitor the signs 

For seniors, it is vital to watch out for signs and symptoms to prevent further health complications. Check if they have a runny nose, congestion, sneezing, itchy, or watery eyes, and contact the doctor in case you notice any of these symptoms. Early diagnosis and treatment can lower the risk of respiratory and cardiovascular issues. 

Follow a healthy diet

Older adults have weaker immune systems than others. It is important to incorporate more immunity-boosting foods such as apples, berries, broccoli, red peppers, and yogurt into your diet. These foods can interfere with the release of histamine, a chemical that triggers allergy symptoms in our bodies. Additionally, fatty fish such as salmon, tuna, and trout are rich in omega-3 fatty acids that prevent allergens from causing extreme damage to our system.  

Read more: 6 Tips to Help Seniors Maintain a Healthy Lifestyle 

Avoid self-medication

The most commonly used over the counter (OTC) medicine to treat allergies are antihistamines which can be dangerous for seniors. Two popular first-generation antihistamines, namely diphenhydramine and chlorpheniramine can result in anxiety, sedation, dizziness, urinary retention, itchy eyes, and dry mouth. 

These side effects can contribute to possible falls and even urinary tract infections (UTIs) in older adults. Hence, it is important to consult a healthcare provider and get proper medication, keeping your medical history in mind. However, doctors put more emphasis on precautionary measures, nasal steroids, and topical medications to prevent and treat seasonal allergies. 

Summing It Up

Managing seasonal allergies in seniors is crucial to ensure a healthy life. It is possible to prevent them by making a few lifestyle changes and controlling their exposure to these allergens. Also, stay updated on allergy forecasts to avoid heading out during those times.  To prevent seasonal allergies in seniors, try to choose nonpharmaceutical methods. If OTC medications are necessary, be sure to consult with a doctor first. 

A Complete Guide to Managing Seasonal Allergies in Seniors | Infographic
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