Senior man standing in nature, holding a tissue in his hands and preparing to sneeze

It’s summertime! After the long, cold winter and wet springtime, we can at long last get outside. For older adults, getting out into the beauty of nature, fresh air, and sunshine is very important for both mental and physical health. Unfortunately, however, it can also trigger seasonal allergic reactions. And this is just one type of allergy that becomes more prevalent as people get older, making it important to know how to help a senior safely manage allergies.

What Types of Allergies Affect Seniors?

In addition to pollen allergies, which affect millions of people of all ages, older adults are at an increased risk for the following types of allergic conditions:

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

Because allergic reactions can be very dangerous and even life-threatening, it is essential to know the particular allergies impacting an individual and what treatments exist. It begins by setting up an appointment with the doctor to see if allergy testing is needed. If that’s the case, a referral will likely be made to an allergist, who can test for a wide range of potential allergens and prescribe an appropriate treatment plan.

Common Symptoms and How to Help a Senior Safely Manage Allergies

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

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 can 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.

Pollen allergies: Common symptoms include itchiness in the throat, nose, and eyes, coughing, sneezing, and nasal congestion or a runny nose. Over-the-counter nasal steroids that are sprayed directly into the nose tend to be highly effective. It’s 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 more susceptible to allergic reactions to poison ivy, oak, or sumac, in addition to skin care products such as soap and lotion. Swollen, itchy, or red skin can be soothed with topical steroids and ointments and/or antihistamines. Scratching could make the symptoms worse. If you notice a rash that spreads quickly or is causing pain or any type of green or yellow discharge or fever, get medical help immediately.

Allergies to insects: The venom from fire ants or bees can cause pain, swelling, and redness. When the immune system overreacts, however, severe 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.

Allergies to food: Just like insect allergies, food allergies can lead to dire consequences. The most common allergy-inducing foods include peanuts, shellfish, eggs, milk, wheat, soy, and tree nuts. Food allergy symptoms range between congestion and sneezing to hives and itching, vomiting, diarrhea, and anaphylaxis. Prevention is essential. The allergist might provide an epi-pen for the person to carry at all times and to use at the first indication of an allergic reaction to food.

At At-Home Care Company, our caregivers are skilled in recognizing and reporting any changes in condition immediately. Contact us at 515-2292-2650 to find out 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. Our caregivers serve families in Story City, Ames, Huxley, Boone, Nevada, and the surrounding areas.