Treatment for Common Allergies

Jul 12, 2016

Treatment for Common Allergies

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As pollen fills the air, people with the “hay fever” begin to feel the effects. Just like the 50 million Americans affected by allergies, seniors are not exempt from the stuffy noses and watery eyes. However, unlike younger generations, elderly adults often have other complicating factors and preexisting conditions that can make it more difficult to deal with allergies.

First, you’ll want to look for the signs and symptoms of allergies. Depending on the type of allergy, you’ll need to keep an eye out for seasonal factors, and also consider how immune systems change as you grow older.

Let your doctor know as soon as you start experiencing allergies so they can recommend the next steps. Sometimes it’s unknown what causes a sudden susceptibility to allergens, so act on your symptoms as they develop.

Ways to Treat Elderly Allergies

When dealing with allergies in older adults, it’s important to isolate the symptoms of other pre-existing conditions and others that may be brought on by offending allergens. Considering allergies can arise simply from combining the wrong medications, always check with your doctor before adding a new pill or supplement to your regimen.

Each type of allergy common to seniors can be treated in different ways, however, the most common methods of treatment include:

Antihistamines

These are the mainstay in the treatment of allergies, especially for younger people. First-generation antihistamines like chlorpheniramine and diphenhydramine are generally effective in reducing sneezing, itching, and rhinorrhea.

It may be necessary to avoid traditional antihistamines as well, given that they can cause confusion, drowsiness, urinary retention, dry mouth, and eyes, as well as dizziness. These types of drugs can also cause changes in mood and behavior in elderly people that may lead to dangerous interactions with other prescribed medications.

Decongestants

These are used to reduce nasal swelling, which in turn relieves congestion. The most common used agent is pseudoephedrine, however, it does have the potential to stimulate the nervous system to produce side effects like anxiety, irritability, insomnia, and palpitations. It’s usually recommended that elderly patients, especially those with hypertension, coronary artery disease, cerebral vascular disease, or bladder conditions, avoid decongestants.

Anti-Inflammatory Nasal Sprays

Most of these medications are safe for older adults to use. For most people, these agents are effective in reducing sneezing, itching, congestion, and rhinorrhea with very minimal side effects. Common nonsteroidal agents include cromolyn, azelastine, and olopatadine. Otherwise, corticosteroid versions are available as beclomethasone, flunisolide, triamcinolone, budesonide, fluticasone and ciclesonide.

Immunotherapy and Emergency Options

If the available medications are generally ineffective or the risks are too high for elderly patients, another treatment option is immunotherapy.

Essentially, patients are injected with extremely small amounts of an allergen, eventually increasing the dosage to develop a resistance. These “allergy shots” are an effective long-term treatment that decreases the symptoms of rhinitis, asthma, conjunctivitis, or even insect stings.

For patients who experience extreme reactions to food allergens or certain insect venoms, it is usually a good idea to carry a form of auto-injectable epinephrine. These handy devices can be used to prevent severe anaphylaxis, which can be a major medical emergency if left unattended to.

Depending on the type of allergies you’re experiencing you treatment option will differ. Doctors will also take into account any preexisting or complicating illnesses that will alter the course of your treatment. Regardless, allergies are still very common in a growing senior citizen population and are very manageable in most cases.

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Frequently Asked Questions

Do allergies get worse with age?

Seasonal allergies do tend to get worse with age, mostly because of the fact that our immune systems tend to break down. This means that seniors are likely to experience a change in the way their bodies handle allergens. As you get older, it's harder for your body to protect itself from common allergens.

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What does "hypoallergenic" mean?

These labels are generally found on beauty products and it means that these products are less likely to cause an allergic reaction. Although no product can guarantee not to trigger allergies, it’s still recommended to buy hypoallergenic products, especially if your allergies are severe.

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