Spring and summer bring beauty and warmth to your aging parent’s neighborhood, but for many seniors it can also mean endless days of sneezing, watery eyes, headaches and runny noses. Seasonal allergies affect millions of people every year, and seniors are hit particularly hard with symptoms. If your elderly mom or dad is suddenly experiencing allergy symptoms, it may be time for a visit to the doctor.
Here are some frequently asked questions that many family caregivers have about seasonal allergies and their aging parents:
Q: Why are spring and summer so bad for seasonal allergies?
A: Seasonal allergies are triggered by the release of pollen into the air. This time of year, trees, flowers and weeds all bloom and send out pollen. In some people, their immune system reacts to the pollen by releasing chemicals into the body, causing allergy symptoms.
Q: What are some common and not-so-common seasonal allergy symptoms?
A: The most common symptoms of seasonal allergies include stuffy nose, plugged sinuses, sneezing, coughing, and itchy eyes and throat. Less common symptoms, or ones that people don’t normally associate with seasonal allergies, are fever, achiness, fatigue, bags under the eyes and watery eyes. Some allergy symptoms mimic other illnesses, leading many seniors to go undiagnosed because family caregivers and senior care aides think something else is going on.
Q: Why are seniors so adversely affected by seasonal allergies?
A: Elderly adults are already dealing with a weakened immune system due to age. Seasonal allergies can also bring on additional health problems for seniors who have a hard time resisting chronic illnesses. It’s common for them to develop sinus infections, ear infections, and upper respiratory problems due to seasonal allergies. Of course, discomfort and lack of sleep can further cause health problems for them.
Q: Can’t elderly adults take allergy medication like antihistamines?
A: While most people can take antihistamines to reduce the symptoms of seasonal allergies, seniors should never be given this medicine unless cleared by a doctor. Antihistamines can interfere with existing medicine and can trigger high blood pressure and other health issues as well. Only doctors should prescribe medicine for seniors when it comes to treating seasonal allergies.
Q: How can family caregivers and senior care aides help the elderly with seasonal allergies?
A: Actually, there are a number of things that family caregivers and senior care aides can do to minimize pollen exposure and keep seasonal allergies under control. Seniors should not go outside on high pollen days. When they do go out, senior care assistants should help them with a brimmed hat and sunglasses. Senior care aides should keep pollen out of the house by closing windows and doors, plus leaving shoes and jackets near the entry. Other tips include vacuuming and dusting frequently and using HEPA filters in vacuums and air conditioning units. Everyone should wash their hands frequently during allergy season.