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How to manage seasonal allergies safely in the elderly


Allergic rhinitis, also known as hay fever, is a chronic disorder caused by an allergic reaction to substances such as pollen, dust mites, and pet hair. Allergies like hay fever is often underestimated as its symptoms are similar to that of the common cold, but it profoundly affects the quality of life of those impacted. It is estimated that 1 in 4 people in the UK has hay fever, and this is rising by 5% every year.

An elderly person is at a higher risk of allergic inflammation and infections because of factors like age-related changes in the immune system and polypharmacy. The chances of complications of allergic rhinitis in older adults are higher. Therefore it becomes essential to understand how an elder person can get through allergy season safely.

1. Keep An Eye Out for Allergy Symptoms

Hay fever or allergic rhinitis can occur during an allergy season or all year-round. The usual symptoms include:

  • Sneezing
  • Runny nose
  • Red, watery, and itchy eyes
  • Headache
  • Coughing
  • Congestion

These symptoms may not seem very critical, but considering the discomfort and complications a geriatric person experiences, they can negatively impact life.

2. Take Your Doctor’s Opinion

If you feel that the allergy symptoms are becoming severe, then do not hesitate to consult your doctor. In the case of the elderly, the doctor would fully know the patient’s medical history, other simultaneous conditions, and suitable treatment. Hay fever symptoms are harder to deal with at old age as a sudden bout of coughing may cause difficulty in breathing. Therefore, always take your doctor’s opinion on how to manage the disease.

3. Don’t Delay the Treatment

Pollen allergy symptoms like nasal congestion and cough worsen in older adults who are already suffering from lung issues or cardiovascular diseases. So, look for a way to relieve the symptoms of allergies as early as possible. At-home relief methods include inhaling steam up to twice daily.

Depending on the severity, you can try medications like Sterimar Breathe Easy Isotonic Nasal Hygiene Spray – an easy-to-use nasal spray that helps clear the nasal passage off allergens and hence helps in easier breathing. A fexofenadine tablet may also help relax runny nose and sneezing.

Please consult your doctor when in doubt before opting for any hay fever medicine.

4. Minimize Exposure to Allergens

Seasonal allergies are caused due to an increase in environmental allergens like pollen, mold spores and trees, and grass. You can minimize exposure to these allergens by avoiding stepping out during high allergy season or when the weather reporters forecast increased pollen count and mold spore levels.

If you need to step out, cover your eyes with sunglasses and try wearing a mask to cover your nose and mouth. Make sure you don’t bring outside allergens home by taking a shower and getting into fresh pair of clothes as soon as you step inside.

Installing an air purifier at home or an A/C with a HEPA filter is worthwhile if you experience frequent allergic reactions to things like dust and dust mites.

5. Consume Immunity-Boosting Food

Our immunity system weakens as we age. You can try boosting your immunity levels by including certain types of food in your daily diet. For example, quercetin-containing foods like apples, berries, garlic, and onions can inhibit the release of histamine – the chemical that triggers allergy symptoms in our body.

Fatty fish such as salmon, tuna, and trout have an abundance of omega-3 fatty acids that prevent extreme damage to our system. Probiotics found in yoghurt or kimchi are also healthy for our immune system.


Note: Content has been edited for style and length.

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Krishma Patel is the co-founder and the Superintendent Pharmacist at MedsNow – UK online pharmacy. She is passionate about showcasing the integral function community pharmacies can play in supporting the healthcare system and the NHS by providing patients with high quality, safe and discreet access to healthcare at their convenience. Krishma is also the Director and the Superintendent Pharmacist of Enimed Ltd.


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