The return of spring is a welcome change of seasons. Increased sunlight and warmer weather provides us all with more opportunities to be outside. This is particularly important for seniors, for whom bed- and chair-bound winters can lead to stiffness, rapid loss of muscle tone and a lack of energy.
Of course, there is always a balance in life, so we trade all that rosy sunshine and an abundance seasonal allergies for a healthy dose of pollen and other allergens. What is typically a minor nuisance to the young and healthy can be a bit more threatening for the senior population.
Tips to Help Seniors Survive This Year’s Allergy Season
For one thing, seniors often have pre-existing medical conditions that make it more difficult for them to cope with the respiratory problems that accompany allergies. Also, senior immune systems are often weaker than those of their younger counterparts, which can result in more intense allergy symptoms and discomforts and can also make seniors more prone to new allergies.
Signs of seasonal allergies include:
- Runny nose
- Itchy and/or watery eyes
- Itchy and/or sore throats
Often, seniors are wary of accepting they have allergies because they’ve, “never had them before…” However the experts say that adult-onset allergies are on the rise, so any senior experiencing these symptoms for the first time should schedule a visit to the doctor.
Please Be Advised: DO NOT purchase over-the-counter allergy medications for seniors unless you have been advised to do so by their doctor. Seniors are more sensitive to the negative side-effects of antihistamines, the active ingredient in most allergy medications.
There are several things you can do to help seniors weather the spring allergy storm.
- Schedule a visit to the doctor. Do schedule a visit with the doctor if it’s the first time a senior has experienced allergies to make sure you choose an allergy medication that works well with any other prescriptions they’re currently taking.
- Avoid over-the-counter medications. One of the most important reasons to go to the doctor, rather than the pharmacy, is that traditional over-the-counter allergy medications contain antihistamines. Not only can these cause seniors to become drowsy, foggy, forgetful and confused, they can also cause mood swings and dangerous interactions with other prescription medications. Often, doctors will prescribe nasal steroid sprays or other medications to assist with allergy symptoms.
- Check pollen counts. Look at local weather forecasts and schedule outdoor activities for days when the pollen count is lower.
- Wear protective clothing and gear. Wearing sunglasses, long sleeves, pants and a mask can protect sensitive seniors from excess pollen and airborne allergens. Once seniors are back inside, have them change clothes and wash their hands. Outdoor clothes should be placed directly in the washing machine. This will help to eliminate the transfer of allergens to the inside of the home.
- Change HVAC air filters. Sometimes, the level of dust mites, pollen and dander inside the home are higher in concentration than those outside. This is because once allergens make their way in, they can have a hard time getting back out. Schedule an HVAC tune-up this time and year and have the technician replace the filters while he’s at it. Old HVAC ducts may need to be cleaned. Air filters are very affordable so, during allergy season, it may be worth it to change them every month to maintain healthy indoor air quality.
- Eat an anti-inflammatory diet. Some foods, like white, refined sugars, processed carbohydrates (like crackers and many snack foods), saturated fats and aspartame (a common sugar-free sweetener) actually increase inflammation in the body. Increased inflammation leads to a hyper-active immune system, and that will lead to more severe allergenic responses. A healthy, anti-inflammatory diet can reduce allergy symptoms as well as other conditions linked to inflammation such as arthritis. Focus on eating whole grains, lots of vegetables and fruits, lean proteins and minimal amounts of processed foods.
Feel like your senior loved one needs a little extra care this season? Contact HomeAide Home Care. We can provide any level of home-based senior care you need, whether it be weekly check-ins and errand running to full-time or respite care services.