Spring is a season we all look forward to. Leaves of green grass sprout up to catch the nourishing rays of the sun. Springtime blooms flourish on trees. Warmer spring temps vitalize sleeping dandelions to burst with pollen. The majestic arrival of spring brings with it complications for individuals who are susceptible to the one recognizable downside of spring: allergies.
While many believe allergies only occur in the young, this belief is challenged every year when a significant portion of the older adult population experiences allergy symptoms. In fact, experts estimate that 5 to 10 percent of senior citizens in the U.S. are affected by allergic diseases. Plus, seniors experience allergies differently than younger generations. The immune systems of older adults change as they age, thereby affecting how they handle allergens. Elderly adults become more susceptible to infections and they experience a decrease in their response to vaccines.
The rise of spring allergies coincides with the time when all of nature emerges from the depths of winter. It becomes difficult to completely avoid airborne pollen especially in spring, since pollen is often inhaled from nature’s fresh blooms. Plus, the environmental pollen count is known to increase in this warmer season, provoking allergy symptoms.
Symptoms of Spring Allergies
What constitutes spring allergies in the elderly? Rhinitis is the inflammation of the mucous membranes inside the nose. Pollen, pet dander and even mold can trigger symptoms of rhinitis, such as itchiness in the nose, eyes, ears, throat and roof of one’s mouth. Included also in spring allergies in the older population are watery eyes, sneezing, congestion and a runny nose.
Left untreated, spring allergy symptoms can develop into more serious conditions in the elderly. Respiratory or sinus infections can arise as a result of spring allergies. Sinusitis is an enduring inflammation of the sinuses, often occurring behind the cheek bones and nose and surrounding the eyes. Common symptoms of sinusitis include persistent cough, congestion, headache, postnasal drip, pressure felt in the face and fever.
Spring Allergy Safety Tips
The older adult’s first step during the oncoming allergy season is to consult a physician. A doctor who properly diagnoses seasonal allergies can prescribe the most effective medication to counter the allergy. The attending doctor will also ensure that any prescribed allergy medicines do not interfere with any existing medications the senior takes.
Antihistamines are commonly prescribed for allergies, but seniors in particular should avoid them. The numerous side effects of standard antihistamines include dizziness, urinary retention, dry mouth and eyes, drowsiness and confusion—which can destabilize an elderly individual, increase the risk of falls and even dangerously interact with many prescribed medications. Medical professionals also conclude that antihistamines can cause mood disturbances, insomnia and behavioral changes in older adults.
Instead of antihistamines, seniors may find more relief in a nasal steroid or a topical medication. Advanced treatments are also emerging to help seniors in particular who are susceptible to spring allergies. One new treatment is a steroid inhaler combined with an antihistamine that delivers the medicine directly into the nasal passage, thereby avoiding the negative side effects of the traditional antihistamine.
When it’s convenient to do so, seniors should stay inside when the pollen count reaches a high level. Experts indicate that windy days, especially, spread pollen throughout the environment. Fortunately, heavy springtime rains are effective in reducing the allergens in the air.
If excursions into the outdoors are necessary, put on protective eyewear, like sunglasses. While not 100 percent effective, sunglasses shield eyes from blowing allergens.
Wash Off Allergens
Do a load of laundry after being outside. Pollen has a tendency to stick to clothing, shoes and hair. Allergens then have an entryway—via the clothes and hair—into the home. Experts suggest washing your hands, taking a shower and removing your shoes after having been outdoors. Cleansing yourself of allergens helps to prevent symptoms.
Allergens that float throughout the springtime air can wander into your home when the windows and doors are wide open. To minimize the effects of a pollen infestation inside your home, keep the windows and doors shut (no matter how inviting the cool spring breeze happens to be!).
You may also choose to turn on the air conditioner inside your home to help filter out the allergens. High-efficiency air filters are effective in reducing allergens in the air.
If you’re in a car, also keep the windows shut to keep the pollen from wafting throughout your vehicle and provoking allergy symptoms. An alternative is to run the air conditioner in your car to filter out the allergens.
Run a Dehumidifier
A functional dehumidifier in your home can ward off moisture and keep the indoors dry, thereby reducing the offending allergens.
Perhaps the senior in your life is suffering from allergies that have led to a more serious condition. If your loved one is in need of non-medical care while you’re away from home, a reliable senior care provider can help. The best precaution is to have a skilled aide available to ensure the senior is safe at all times. Assisting Hands Home Care provides compassionate care to seniors who are likely to benefit from an extra hand at home. Our elder care home aides are available to offer a range of non-medical services to ensure your family member is as comfortable as possible.
Our team at Assisting Hands Home Care Hinsdale works with families to customize and implement an effective in-home care plan. If the senior in your life lives alone, Assisting Hands Home Care aides provide transport to doctor’s appointments, for example, and complete essential household tasks. The goal of the Assisting Hands Home Care team is to ensure your loved one receives optimum care. To reach this objective, we offer flexible hours during the morning, afternoon, evening or overnight, to meet any schedule inconsistencies you may have. Whether it’s 24 hours a day or even an hour a week, depend on Assisting Hands Home Care to meet all your non-medical, elder care needs.