Ah, spring. The season of renewal. It’s uplifting to see the world around us come alive again – this year, especially, as it also heralds our gradual emergence from the pandemic. But it’s hard to feel blessed by spring’s beauty when you’re busy sneezing, coughing, and wiping your watery eyes thanks to seasonal allergies. Spring allergies can also give you a stuffy or runny nose, make your eyes itch, and impair your sense of smell or taste.
Seniors are just as likely to suffer as younger folks. You don’t “grow out” of allergies. In fact, many allergies don’t even appear until later in life, and the incidence of that is increasing.
Allergy Sufferers Know the Symptoms All Too Well
Still, you may be suffering even more than you think. Spring allergies here in Georgia are often caused by tree pollen, and some tree pollen allergies can also trigger allergic response to foods such as nuts or apples due to chemical similarities. So you might also experience itchiness, dryness and swelling around your mouth and face. This is called Oral Allergy Syndrome, or OAS.
Whatever your seasonal allergies, there are steps you can take to prevent or alleviate symptoms.
There are prescription and over-the-counter allergy medications that can provide tremendous relief from seasonal symptoms. Treating allergies is essential for seniors, not only to provide relief but because symptoms can increase risks in cardiovascular patients. However, seniors have to be careful about treatment options because some allergy medications can also raise blood pressure or interfere dangerously with other meds you may be taking.
The first step is confirming that your problem is truly an allergy, not some other nasal problem. For example, as we age we lose natural hydration and our nasal passages can narrow due to weakened cartilage. That can lead to feelings of stuffy nose and breathing difficulties. If this is the case for you, taking some common decongestants or antihistamines can exacerbate the problem.
Fortunately, newer products are based on primary ingredients which are much safer for seniors. The three most popular are:
- Zyrtec (cetirizine)
- Claritin (loratadine)
- Allegra (fexofenadine)
If you have seasonal allergies but are not sure of the cause, your doctor can help you find the answer. This will make it much easier to avoid triggers as much as possible.
Other Steps You Can Take to Reduce Symptoms
If you do suffer from OAS as well as pollen allergies, your doctor may help you pinpoint which foods to avoid during allergy season.
Stay indoors when pollen counts are high. You can check with your local weather service online, or even get the information from local TV news weather reports.
If you do go outside, remove your shoes before re-entering, to avoid tracking in pollen. Wash your hands thoroughly, too – we all know the proper hand-washing protocol now, thanks to COVID-19. If your allergies are severe and you’ve been outdoors for a longer period of time, toss your clothes in the hamper and take a shower to remove pollen from your hair and body.
Keep your windows closed and use air conditioning. This is frustrating when the weather is finally improving and you want to enjoy the warm, fresh air. But there’s nothing fresh about air that’s polluted with pollen.
Some nutritionists recommend eating foods that help reduce inflammation. These include fruits and veggies high in Vitamin C as well as flax seed, ginger, leafy greens, apples and walnuts. (Note, though, that apples or walnuts could be a problem if you suffer from OAS as noted above.)
This, Too, Shall Pass
Perhaps the only good thing about seasonal allergies is that the season will change and your symptoms will go away. With an appropriate medication, if needed, and taking smart steps to avoid spring pollen, you can do this!
Interested in moving to a senior living community or want to learn more about what we have to offer in our nine communites in southern Georgia? Feel free to give us a call at 855-540-LIFE to learn more about senior living opportunities at Magnolia Manor or download our free guide on Independent Living.