Survival Guide for Allergies and Aging
As we age, managing the health of our bodies and minds can sometimes become increasingly complicated. Comorbid conditions can sometimes occur, occupying much of our attention, and we tend to forget about symptom management and treatment of less pressing concerns. What’s more, seniors often have to deal with polypharmacy: taking dozens of pills a day (at the right time and with the right meals) is no easy task, and it’s understandable that seniors dealing with the struggles of polypharmacy would want to limit any additions to their pill burden wherever possible. It is for these (and other) reasons that allergies among seniors are so often overlooked and inadequately addressed.
Yet allergies among seniors are not something to be ignored: in fact, for a senior to let their allergies and allergy symptoms go unaddressed and untreated can cause bigger and more problematic downstream effects. Knowing what to expect with your allergies as you age and how to properly manage allergy symptoms is crucial.
Allergies Can Change as We Age
Interestingly, those of us who deal with regular seasonal allergies may be in luck: oftentimes the effects of seasonal allergies become less and less severe the older we get! However, that’s not always the case. What’s more, new allergies can crop up in our later years. It’s not uncommon that seniors in their 60s and 70s might experience new allergy symptoms caused by whole new allergies, a result of genetics, illness, a change in the surrounding environment, or all three.
Further, new behaviors or habits that we take on as we age could exacerbate allergy symptoms. Certain prescription medications are known to aggravate allergy symptoms in the elderly. Beta-blockers are a prime example: these tend to worsen nasal stuffiness in elderly patients suffering from allergies. Additionally, as we age, we simply have less and less control over our organs and therefore less and less control of the symptoms our bodies exhibit in reaction to adverse events (like allergies). Allergies that may not have given you much grief in your formative years might start to give you unfortunate and irritating symptoms later in life. It’s simply the nature of aging.
Finally, the things we were once able to do to combat our allergy problems become increasingly problematic as we age. Specifically, the use of antihistamines to combat allergies is discouraged among seniors because of their causal relationship with increased blood pressure. Antihistamines can also negatively react with other prescription medications that many seniors take (causing issues such as dizziness or drowsiness) so older allergy sufferers who deal with polypharmacy are at an increased risk if they choose to take antihistamines.
So, what’s an allergy sufferer to do?
Another real challenge for elderly allergy sufferers is in diagnosis. The older we get, the less responsive our skin becomes to a skin prick test. And with other comorbidities occurring, sometimes it’s hard to pin down the cause of symptoms. Are headaches a result of an allergy or something more severe? The more comorbidities a person has, the harder it becomes to tell. But that doesn’t mean that treating allergies for elderly patients is impossible: quite the contrary! For sporadic, mild allergy symptoms, talk to your internist or family physician about treatment. For longer-lasting or debilitating allergy symptoms, a board-certified allergist can help: they’ll be better equipped to understand symptoms and identify root causes, and will know how to handle issues associated with polypharmacy and comorbidities.
At Main Line Adult Day Center, we understand that allergies can be a real bother. We’re here to help our seniors recognize their symptoms and address treatment in a safe and effective way, so they can get back to enjoying their lives! Come talk to one of the talented and caring professionals at Main Line Adult Day Center about the ways we help seniors with allergies live life to the fullest.