Senior man preparing to sneeze while standing in a park or forest

It’s finally summer! Now that the long, cold winter and wet springtime are over, we can at long last enjoy the great outdoors. For older adults, getting out into the beauty of nature, fresh air, and sunshine is extremely important for both mental and physical health. Unfortunately, however, it can also trigger seasonal allergic reactions in senior loved ones. And this is only one type of allergy that becomes more common as people age.

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:

  • Skin allergies
  • Allergic reactions to stings or insect bites
  • Medication and food allergies

Because allergic reactions can be extremely dangerous and even potentially fatal, it’s crucial to understand the particular allergies affecting the individual and what treatment plans exist. It begins by scheduling an appointment with the doctor to learn if allergy testing is warranted. If so, a referral will likely be made to an allergist, who can test for an array of possible allergens and prescribe an appropriate treatment plan.

Allergy Symptoms and Treatments for Older Adults

Here is what an older adult could be experiencing during an allergic reaction, and what the allergist may recommend to help:

  • Allergies to pollen: Standard symptoms include nasal congestion or a runny nose, sneezing, coughing, and itchiness in the eyes, nose, and/or throat. OTC nasal steroids that are sprayed straight into the nose are usually highly effective. It’s also helpful to keep close track of pollen levels. On days when the pollen count is higher, encourage older adults with pollen allergies to stay inside.
  • Insect allergies: The venom from bees or fire ants can cause pain, swelling, and redness. When the immune system overreacts, however, extreme symptoms such as nausea, coughing, dizziness, shortness of breath and more can occur, as well as anaphylaxis – as quickly as five minutes after a bite or sting. Call 911 immediately if a bad reaction is noted in an older loved one.
  • Skin allergies: With drier, thinner skin, seniors are more vulnerable to allergic reactions to poison ivy, oak, or sumac, as well as skin care products such as lotion and soap. Swollen, itchy, or red skin can be soothed with topical steroids and ointments and/or antihistamines. Scratching will likely make the symptoms worse. If you notice a rash that spreads quickly or is causing pain or any type of yellow or green discharge or fever, get medical attention as soon as possible.
  • Allergies to food: Much like insect allergies, food allergies can result in dire consequences. The most prevalent allergy-inducing foods include peanuts, shellfish, eggs, milk, wheat, soy, and tree nuts. Food allergy symptoms vary from congestion and sneezing to hives and itching, vomiting, diarrhea, and anaphylaxis. Prevention is crucial. The allergist might provide an epi-pen for the individual to carry at all times and use at the first sign of an allergic reaction to food.
  • 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 could include hair loss, swelling, breathing problems, vomiting or diarrhea, nausea, and itching. Talk to the doctor as soon as possible if an allergy to a medication is suspected.

At Home With You Senior Care, our caregivers are skilled in recognizing and reporting any changes in condition immediately. Contact us at 410-756-0959 to learn more ways we are able to help the older adults you love stay safe, healthy, and thriving with our award-winning in-home care services. We proudly offer services in Owings Mills, Ellicott City, Catonsville, Reisterstown, Columbia, and the surrounding areas.