Man with gray hair standing in a wooded area, holding a tissue in his hands and preparing to sneeze

Ahh, summertime! Now that the long, cold winter and wet springtime are over, we can at last spend time out in nature. For older adults, getting out into the fresh air, sunshine, and beauty of nature is extremely important for both mental and physical health. Regrettably, however, outdoor activities can trigger seasonal allergic reactions in older adults. And this is just one type of allergy that becomes more prevalent as people age.

What Allergic Reactions Impact Older Adults?

In addition to pollen allergies, which affect millions of people of all ages, seniors 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 very dangerous and even life-threatening, it’s important to know the specific allergies affecting older loved ones and what treatments exist. It begins by setting up an appointment with the doctor to see if allergy testing is warranted. If that’s the case, a referral will be made to an allergist, who is able to test for a variety of potential allergens and prescribe an appropriate treatment plan.

Common Allergy Symptoms and Treatments Options

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

  • Allergies to pollen: Common symptoms include itchiness in the throat, nose, and eyes, coughing, sneezing, and nasal congestion or a runny nose. OTC nasal steroids which are sprayed straight into the nose in many cases are highly effective. It is also helpful to keep track of pollen levels. On days when the pollen count is elevated, encourage older adults to remain inside.
  • Skin allergies: With thinner, drier skin, older adults tend to be at higher risk for allergic reactions to poison sumac, ivy, or oak, in addition to skin care products such as lotion and soap. Itchy, red, or swollen 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 kind of green or yellow discharge or fever, get medical help immediately.
  • Medication allergies: 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 immediately if an allergy to a medication is suspected.
  • Insect allergies: The venom from bees or fire ants can cause swelling, redness, and pain. When the immune system overreacts, however, extreme symptoms such as shortness of breath, dizziness, coughing, nausea, and more can occur, as well as anaphylaxis – as quickly as five minutes after a bite or sting. Call 911 immediately if a negative reaction is noted.
  • Food allergies: As with insect allergies, food allergies may cause dire consequences. The most prevalent allergy-inducing foods include tree nuts, soy, wheat, milk, eggs, shellfish, and peanuts. 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 individual to carry at all times and use at the first indication of an allergic reaction to food.

At Inspired Home Care, our care providers are skilled in observing and reporting any changes in condition immediately. Contact us at 847-787-7572 to find out more ways we are able to help the people you love stay safe, healthy, and thriving with our award-winning home care services. Our services are proudly offered in Gold Coast, Buffalo Grove, Arlington Heights, Chicago, Palatine, and the surrounding areas.