Allergy season: Helping your loved ones prepare

Sunrise Senior Living  |  April 6, 2017
Allergy season: Helping your loved ones prepare

The start of spring is generally welcomed by all, but one aspect of it can be particularly frustrating. 

Allergy season, unfortunately, comes hand in hand with the change from cold and snow to flowers in bloom. This transition can be troublesome for everyone. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, allergies are the sixth-leading cause of chronic illness in the U.S.

Allergies are the sixth-leading cause of chronic illness in the U.S.

Seniors with pre-existing chronic ailments are more susceptible to the typical symptoms of seasonal allergies - coughing, sneezing, runny noses and sore throats. This predisposition doesn't mean allergies are liable to make seniors' day-to-day experiences untenable during spring - far from it. But as family members of someone dealing with this troublesome issue, you can greatly help loved ones deal with the stresses of allergy season and point them to the right treatments and best practices. 

Collaborate with doctors and caregivers
For starters, when you know that allergies are a concern for seniors in your life, make sure primary care providers and elder care professionals who work with them are aware of the issue. According to Aging Care, because doctors and nurses are likely to be most focused on seniors' chronic health problems, they may minimize allergy treatment in the regimen of care they prescribe.

Christopher Randolph, M.D., a member of the Asthma & Allergic Diseases in the Elderly Committee of the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology, advised that once allergies will be a problem, they should be treated aggressively. 

"Allergies have a larger impact on the lives and health of the elderly," Randolph told the source.

He emphasized this point further by explaining how severely seasonal allergy symptoms can hurt seniors who already live with cardiovascular conditions.

Allergy season: Helping your loved ones prepareSeasonal allergies caused by pollen and similar irritants can be very troublesome for seniors.

Choose medications wisely
According to research conducted by Nielsen and the Consumer Healthcare Products Association, U.S. allergy sufferers in all demographics turn to over-the-counter medicines more frequently than prescription pills: 60 percent of the 28 million Americans with allergies took this approach in 2015 - a 20 percent uptick from 2009. 

For many, this solution isn't a problem, but Randolph told Aging Care that seniors may be at risk from the antihistamines that are common to OTC allergy medicines. This active ingredient has been known to interact problematically with various prescriptions common in the elder population and cause dry mouth, dizziness, confusion and numerous other behavioral side effects. As such, a nasally administered or topical steroidal medication could be the best course of action.

Air quality is key
Aside from OTC and prescribed medications, you can also help your allergy-troubled senior loved ones deal with allergens by installing an air purifier in their household. These appliances can improve overall air quality by targeting dust, pollen and similar allergens, as well as improve seniors' daily home lives. 

The Chicago Tribune noted that when you shop for purifiers, look for models certified as meeting the Energy Department's high efficiency particulate arrestance standards, as these versions have the greatest filtration abilities. Also, make sure the device is capable of purifying air for the full square footage of the living space.

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