The Dangers of Seasonal Allergies on Seniors
April 20, 2021
Some drug-free ways to help older adults breathe easy again
While allergies are often considered a condition that presents earlier in life, seniors are not exempt from the onset of annoying allergy symptoms. Age-related changes to the immune system may leave older adults at greater risk for infections and allergic inflammation. To complicate matters further, seniors often have chronic diseases and take multiple medications that can make it difficult to diagnose, manage and treat seasonal allergies.
Seasonal allergies may not seem like a priority when there are bigger health concerns in the picture for an aging adult, but these inflammatory responses can lead to more serious issues and even chronic illnesses, especially if there are existing heart or lung issues. Because of complexity of diagnosis, potentially dangerous risks, and varying treatment options, allergies in the elderly must be approached differently than with younger populations.
Accurately diagnosing and treating allergies is important because allergies may increase the risk of a stroke, heart attack, and other conditions in older patients. While the link between asthma and stroke is well-documented, there is also a correlation between milder allergies and stroke risk. People 45 years old and older with a history of hay fever have an 87% higher risk of experiencing a stroke. Additionally, studies have shown that heart attack risk is significantly higher on days with high pollen levels. Nasal congestion, cough and an irritated throat can be extremely dangerous for seniors with pre-existing cardiovascular problems or lung disease.
Many of us turn to over-the-counter remedies for our own allergy symptoms, and seniors are no exception. However, older adults should use extreme caution when turning to over-the-counter relief. Use of certain antihistamines can bring on harmful side effects, aggravate existing medical problems or cause drug interactions. Some decongestants may increase blood pressure and heart rate and cause insomnia, while others can be overly sedating or cause anxiety which can put seniors at greater risk of falls. A doctor can prescribe appropriate prescription medications once specific allergies are identified.
Try Drug-Free Solutions
There are several ways senior living communities can help residents minimize exposure to seasonal allergens.
- Check pollen counts (available on most weather websites and apps), make them part of where you post weather information. Remind seniors to avoid outdoor exposure during peak times, and to only open windows on low pollen days.
- Run central air systems to help filter out contaminants and use High Efficiency Particulate Air (HEPA) filters changed regularly.
- Make sure sunglasses or other eyewear are worn outdoors to prevent particles from getting near eyes.
- Have residents wash hands, shower and change into fresh clothes after a visit outdoors to avoid introducing allergens into the living area.
Oasis Senior Advisors provides this information to help you better serve the seniors in your community. Oasis refers older adults to communities like yours that will meet their care needs, budget and geographical preferences every day. To learn more about how a partnership with your local Oasis advisor can benefit your community, call us (888) 455-5838.