You’re Never Too Old For Seasonal Allergies – Here’s How To Cope
March 18, 2020
Springtime is beautiful, but seasonal allergy symptoms due to pollen and mold aren’t much fun to deal with. Symptoms that were just slightly annoying at age 30 can be dangerous at age 70. Many people who didn’t suffer from “hay fever” in their youth are dismayed to discover that adult-onset allergies are quite common.
Seasonal Allergies and Health Complications
Older people are more likely to suffer from chronic health conditions. As many as 80% of seniors have one chronic illness, while 68% have two. Our immune systems become weaker as we age, which is one reason that the coronavirus COVID-19 is more serious in seniors.
An allergic reaction is an immune response. That’s the itchy, watery eyes, runny nose, sneezing, etc. that everyone associates with seasonal allergies. Some people have more serious inflammatory symptoms as well. Their arthritis, back and neck pain, and other symptoms are often more severe during allergy season.
Allergic reactions put additional stress on the body and immune system, and can make seniors feel just miserable. People who also have breathing or cardiovascular problems may even require hospitalization.
Be Careful with Antihistamines & Decongestants
When hay fever season hits, adults of all ages tend to reflexively stock up on over-the-counter (OTC) or behind-the-counter (BTC) medications. Seniors need to break that habit, because these drugs can be dangerous for older people.
Possible antihistamine side effects include:
- Dry mouth
- Urine retention
Seniors are already at greater risk of injury or death in house fires. One contributing factor is use of medications that can cause deeper sleep or affect mental alertness. In addition, dizziness and confusion contributes to falls – another danger for seniors and a reason that many choose medical alerts with fall detection.
Always ask your doctor or pharmacist if there’s any danger from drug interactions before you take an OTC antihistamine.
Decongestants like pseudoephedrine also pose health risks:
- May increase blood glucose levels
- Increased heart rate
- Rise in blood pressure
- Greater danger of stroke
Anyone with cardiovascular problems should always consult their doctor before taking any medication containing pseudoephedrine.
Don’t worry: there are other allergy treatments besides these two types of drugs. You can still treat your allergies safely with nasal steroids, topical medications, or even non-medical options.
Treating Seasonal Allergies without Drugs
Because some allergy medications can make existing health problems worse, it makes sense to try some non-medication strategies first.
Track pollen counts each day.
Check your local weather report or online weather source for pollen counts in your area. Stay indoors as much as possible when pollen counts are high. Windy days are often worse for pollen because the wind blows it off the plants and into your nose and eyes. Wear sunglasses outside to protect your eyes from pollen.
Keep pollen out of the house.
Keep windows closed and use your air conditioner and/or an air purifier to help keep pollen out of your home. Be sure to check the air filters in your house regularly. Use a vacuum cleaner with a HEPA filter. That will capture the dust and pollen instead of blowing it back into the air. Avoid using outside clotheslines; air and sun-dried sheets smell great, but they’re covered in pollen!
Try nasal irrigation.
This is a safe way to remove irritants from your sinuses. Here’s how it works:
- Pour a saline solution into one nostril.
- Let it flow into your sinus cavities.
- Drain the liquid out your other nostril.
The salt solution restores moisture and eases inflammation. An article published by the journal American Family Physician reported that people with chronic sinus inflammation reported “a 64% improvement in overall symptom severity, and significant and clinically relevant improvement in disease-specific quality of life” after 6 months and 18 months of daily use.