Older man experiencing allergic reactions in the woods, holding a tissue up to his nose and preparing to sneeze

It’s finally summer! After the long, cold winter and chilly, wet springtime, we can finally get outside. For older adults, getting out into the fresh air, sunshine, and beauty of nature is especially important for both physical and mental health. Sadly, however, it can also trigger seasonal allergies and allergic reactions. And this is just 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 an increased risk for the following types of allergic conditions:

  • Skin allergies
  • Food and medication allergies
  • Allergic reactions to insect bites or stings

Because allergy symptoms can be extremely dangerous and even potentially fatal, it’s essential to understand the specific allergies impacting an individual and what treatments are available. Start by setting up an appointment with the physician to learn if allergy testing is needed. If so, a referral will likely be made to an allergist, who is able to test for an array of possible allergens and prescribe an appropriate treatment plan.

Common Allergic Reactions and Treatments for Older Adults

Here’s what an older adult may be experiencing during an allergic episode, and what the allergist may recommend to help:

  • Pollen allergies: Standard symptoms include nasal congestion or a runny nose, sneezing, coughing, and itchiness in the eyes, nose, and/or throat. Over-the-counter nasal steroids that are sprayed straight into the nose are often highly effective. It’s also helpful to monitor pollen levels. On days when the pollen count is high, encourage loved ones to stay in an air-conditioned environment.
  • Allergies to insects: The venom from bees or fire ants can cause pain, swelling, and redness. When the immune system overreacts, however, dangerous 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 severe reaction is noted in an older loved one.
  • Allergies to food: Similar to insect allergies, food allergies can result in dire consequences. The most common allergy-inducing foods include tree nuts, soy, wheat, milk, eggs, shellfish, and peanuts. Food allergy symptoms range from congestion and sneezing to hives and itching, vomiting, diarrhea, and anaphylaxis. Prevention is crucial. The allergist may provide an epi-pen for the person to carry at all times and use at the first indication of an allergic reaction to food.
  • Medication allergies: Insulin, antibiotics, antiseizure and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, and anything containing iodine are typical allergy-inducing medications. Symptoms can vary widely but could include itching and hives, nausea, diarrhea, or vomiting, breathing problems, swelling, and hair loss. Talk with the physician right away if an allergy to a medication is suspected.
  • Skin allergies: With drier, thinner skin, older adults tend to be at higher risk of 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. In the event that you notice a rash that spreads quickly or is causing pain or any kind of green or yellow discharge or fever, get medical assistance right away.

At Compassionate Nursing Services, our caregivers are skilled in observing and reporting any changes in condition immediately. Contact us at 314-432-4312 to learn more ways we are able to help the older adults you love stay safe, healthy, and thriving with our award-winning home care services. We provide care to families in Oakville, Creve Coeur, Clayton, Town and Country, Des Peres, and the nearby areas.