As temperatures rise and the sun stays out a little longer every day, spring and pollen are in the air.
While seasonal allergies can be a nuisance for most, their symptoms can present significant risk to older adults.
Why are seasonal allergies more dangerous to older adults?
Seasonal allergies put older adults at greater risk because they affect the body’s immune response. This is made worse because allergies often cause airways to become inflamed and swollen, increasing the risk of other chronic conditions like nasal congestion, asthma, or other pre-existing cardiovascular or respiratory issues.
Furthermore, allergy symptoms might be confused for symptoms of another condition, complicating future plans of care.
What if I’ve never had allergies before?
As we age, our bodies and their immune systems change with time. As a result, allergies can be developed at any point in a person’s life.
Do I have allergies?
While checking with your primary care physician is always important to a diagnosis, there are some questions you should ask yourself.
What are my symptoms?
The most common symptoms of allergies include a runny nose, sniffling, sneezing, and itchy or watery eyes.
Also consider that there are other common conditions you might be experiencing. If you also detect fever, sore throat, or body aches, you may be experiencing a common cold or the flu.
Have I started taking new medication?
Some prescription medication can have side effects that are easily mistaken for seasonal allergies. In particular, beta blockers (often prescribed after a cardiac event) can cause nasal congestion.
If you have started a new medication recently, check in with your physician so you can investigate solutions together.
Over the counter allergy medication and older adults
Always consult with a physician before taking a new medication, especially for allergies. Some antihistamines can have negative side effects like water retention and dizziness, which can lead to more serious scenarios like a urinary tract infection or fall, respectively.
If you are found to have seasonal allergies, your physician might be able to suggest more measured ways to manage your allergy symptoms.
Making your home safe during allergy season
The most common cause of seasonal allergies is from inhalant allergens, like pollen and mold. Preventing these elements from settling in your home can prevent considerable discomfort.
- Remove clutter: Dust can irritate allergies, so any surfaces or objects that are rarely used should be cleared out of living spaces.
- Clean your home weekly: Once a week vacuuming and dusting can remove many allergens that collect in your home. Consider wearing a mask while cleaning if you are very sensitive.
- Air Conditioning: Air conditioning and HVAC systems can filter lots of allergens before they enter your home. Consider running your AC between 68 and 72 degrees, rather than relying on open windows that can let in more pollen.
- Check your pollen forecast: Most weather forecasts now include allergen predictions. Use these to avoid going out when allergen levels are at their highest.
- Wash your hands: Be sure to wash your hands when you return home to remove any allergens. If you are very sensitive, or have been in an allergen-heavy environment, change your clothes and keep your old ones in a closed container until washed.
- Consider a dehumidifier: Mold loves moist environments, so keeping your in-home humidity levels below 50 percent can be a huge help.
SelectCare believes everyone deserves to live a happy, healthy life in their long-time homes and communities. Since our founding in 1985, we have helped New Yorkers achieve that goal, no matter what challenges they face.