Man with graying hair standing in a park or wooded area, preparing to sneeze

It’s summertime! After the long, cold winter and wet springtime, we can at last spend time out in nature. For older adults, getting out into the beauty of nature, fresh air, and sunshine is particularly important for both mental and physical health. Unfortunately, however, it can also trigger seasonal allergic reactions. And this is only one type of allergy that becomes more prevalent as people age.

What Types of Allergies Affect Seniors?

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

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

Because allergies can be extremely dangerous and even deadly, it’s important to know how to care for a senior with allergies. It begins with learning about the specific allergies impacting older loved ones and what treatment options exist. Next, set up an appointment with the primary care physician to learn if allergy testing is required. 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 plan for treatment.

Common Allergy Symptoms and Treatment Options for Seniors

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

  • Allergies to pollen: Typical 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 an eye on pollen levels. On days when the pollen count is high, encourage older adults to stay in an air-conditioned environment.
  • Insect allergies: The venom from bees or fire ants can cause redness, pain, and swelling. When the immune system overreacts, however, severe symptoms such as dizziness, nausea, shortness of breath, coughing and more can occur, along with anaphylaxis – as quickly as five minutes after a bite or sting. Call 911 immediately if a negative reaction is noted.
  • Skin allergies: With drier, thinner skin, older loved ones tend to be more vulnerable to allergic reactions to poison ivy, oak, or sumac, as well as 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 will likely make the symptoms worse. In the event that you notice a rash that spreads quickly or perhaps is causing pain or any kind of yellow or green discharge or fever, get medical help immediately.
  • Food allergies: Just like 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 key. The allergist may provide an epi-pen for the person to carry at all times and use at the first sign of an allergic reaction to food.
  • Medication allergies: Insulin, antibiotics, antiseizure and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, and anything containing iodine are common allergy-inducing medications. Symptoms can vary widely but may 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.

At Morning Glory Home Care, our caregivers are skilled in recognizing and reporting any changes in condition immediately. Contact us at 618-667-8400 to learn more ways we are able to help the people you love stay safe, healthy, and thriving with our award-winning in-home care services. We proudly serve families in Edwardsville, Collinsville, Granite City, Highland and surrounding communities.