World Allergy Week 2016
World Allergy Week is an annual initiative of the World Allergy Organization (WAO). This year, World Allergy Week falls on April 4th-April 10th. During this week, WAO partners with its member societies to raise awareness of allergic disease and related disorders. WAO also advocates for the provision of training and resources in the diagnosis, management, and prevention of these diseases and asthma, which are rising in prevalence around the world.
While allergies affect people of all ages, they can have a large impact on the lives and health of seniors. Allergy symptoms, such as a congested nose, an irritated throat, and a dry mouth can be extremely dangerous to a senior who has pre-existing cardiovascular or lung problems. Pollens can also aggravate existing medical conditions such as heart disease and COPD. That is why allergies in the elderly should be treated as rapidly and aggressively as possible.
Seniors with pollen allergy need to be particularly careful using over the counter or prescription medications for their symptoms. The anti-histamines that help minimize the effects of allergies are not recommended for a lot of seniors. That is because they can interact with other medications and increase blood pressure. In addition, the sedating quality of anti-histamines increase a senior’s risk of falling, and could cause a dangerous condition where the person cannot urinate. Other side effects include confusion, drowsiness, dry mouth and eyes, and dizziness. Rather than prescribing antihistamines for the seniors suffering from seasonal allergies, a doctor will often prescribe a nasal steroid or some form of topical medication.
The following are some simple tips for you to consider:
- Use the air conditioner. Keeping the windows closed helps to prevent pollens and molds from entering the house.
- Don’t hang clothing or linens outside to dry. Instead, use the clothes dryer or hang them indoors to dry.
- Keep an eye on pollen levels and plan outings for days when pollen counts are projected to be the lowest. There are several free services that will also alert you when pollen counts reach high levels. They include The Weather Channel, The American Academy of Allergy Asthma and Immunology, and Pollen.com.
- Wear sunglasses when you are outside. That can prevent pollen and other seasonal irritants from getting in to your eyes. A hat also helps prevent it from getting in to your hair and working its way on to your hands and clothing.
- Wash your hands after being outdoors. And make sure to shower as soon as you come in from working or spending any significant amount of time outside. Throw the clothes you were wearing in to the laundry. That can help prevent pollen from being spread around your house.
- Many nutritionists believe that foods that help fight inflammation can help relieve some of the symptoms of allergies. Those include apples, walnuts, flax seed, ginger, leafy green vegetables and foods rich in vitamin C. However, as mentioned previously some people are allergic to these foods.
It is important to realize seniors often have multiple chronic health problems, and it can be hard for a doctor to separate a potential allergy from their ongoing diseases. A caregiver or family member who suspects that their elderly loved one may have allergies should bring their concerns to their loved one's doctor, and suggest to the doctor allergy testing or treatment.
Dr. Noah Marco
Jewish Home Chief Medical Officer