Do you think it's another spring cold, or could you be experiencing symptoms of allergies? Seasonal allergies can come on at any age, so don't count them out.
Perhaps you've been dealing with the symptoms of allergies for many seasons now, but if you're experiencing watery eyes, a runny nose, and sneezing for the first time and you're wondering what's going on, you're not alone.
Surprisingly enough, seasonal allergies can strike at any age. When you experience them as an older adult, they can be particularly problematic because you may have other health conditions that allergies can exacerbate.
Treating symptoms of allergies in older adults can also be an issue. Antihistamines, the drugs most commonly prescribed to treat allergies, can have negative side effects for seniors. These include confusion, drowsiness, dry mouth and eyes, and dizziness. However, according to the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology, there are so-called "second generation" and "third generation" antihistamines that cause fewer side effects and may be safe for seniors to take. If you're unsure which product may be right for you, talk with your physician or your Rite Aid Pharmacist.
Allergy Triggers and Symptoms
While pollen and grass may never have bothered you before, for reasons medical professionals are not sure of, they may start to trigger irritating allergy symptoms just as you're settling into retirement. Other common triggers, depending on the time of year, include weeds, smog, mold, and dust mites.
Many people may be tempted to attribute their symptoms to a cold, especially if they've never had allergies before. Symptoms such as sneezing, a runny nose, and coughing are similar to symptoms of a cold, but colds often may be accompanied by body aches, yellow mucus, and a sore throat. Allergy symptoms may include:
- Itchy or watery eyes
- Runny nose
- Dark circles under eyes
How to Manage or Treat Allergy Symptoms
You can take precautions to minimize or prevent your exposure to allergy triggers or take over-the-counter remedies to help relieve your symptoms. Precautions include the following:
- Stay inside when the pollen count is very high. Mornings tend to be peak time for pollen exposure.
- Keep doors and windows closed during allergy season(s).
- Wash your hair and hands after going outside.
- Vacuum often.
- Wear sunglasses when you are outdoors to keep pollen and other airborne irritants out of your eyes.
Over-the-counter remedies (that don't contain antihistamines) that may reduce or relieve allergy symptoms include the following:
- Oral decongestants, such as Sudafed, can help relieve nasal congestion quickly (though temporarily).
- Nasal spray decongestants, such as Afrin, constrict blood vessels and reduce the blood flow to help clear congestion and improve breathing. (Remember that nasal spray decongestants should not be used for more than three consecutive days because, after that, they can start to worsen symptoms.)
- Steroid nasal sprays, like Flonase Allergy Relief, are prescription-strength allergy medications that are available over the counter and provide 24-hour relief for both nasal congestion and eye symptoms.
- Allergy eye drops, such as Visine-A and Naphcon A can help relieve dryness, redness, and itchiness.
- Saline rinses and devices often come in kits together, like the NeilMed NasaFlo Irrigation Device kit. Together, they can help cleanse your nasal passages of allergens. Before using a saline rinse, be sure to read the directions carefully and always follow proper cleaning protocols.
Consult with your Rite Aid Pharmacist to find the best remedy for your symptoms. If your allergies don't respond to over-the-counter remedies, your doctor may order a prescription-strength medication, steroid spray, or allergy shot.
By Joelle Klein
American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology, Medications and Older Adults
Medscape, Allergies in the Aging
AgingCare.com, How to Help a Senior Safely Survive Allergy Season
WebMD, Adult-Onset Allergies
Medical Alert Device, Seasonal Allergies and Seniors
WebMD, Allergies Health Center
Mayo Clinic, Allergy Medications: Know Your Options