How to Care for a Senior with Allergies

Kenneth Knowles, MD
Medically reviewed by Kenneth Knowles, MDApril 8th, 2020
Couple sick with flu

Your eyes are watering constantly. Your car is covered in a film of yellow dust. You can’t take two steps outside without a hailstorm of sneezes overtaking you. Yup, it’s allergy season. If it’s affecting you, you’re not alone—more than 50 million Americans deal with allergies each year. But did you know that seniors make up a big chunk of that number?

Common allergy symptoms are often mistaken in seniors as side effects of preexisting conditions, but in reality, seniors are just as prone to the annoying allergy season as anyone else. And seasonal allergies pose unique problems to seniors that are important to consider if you’re a caretaker. Read on to learn more.

Recognize Symptoms

Did you know that about one in seven older adults have a lung disease according to the Centers for Disease Control? And did you know that nasal symptoms, such as sneezing and nasal discharge, can often be attributed to respiratory illnesses? If your elderly loved one has a lung disease or chronic respiratory illness—like COPD, for example—it can be easy to mistake their runny nose and sneezing as symptoms of their illness rather than symptoms of seasonal allergies.

But just like allergy sufferers in other age brackets, the symptoms are the same for seniors, including:

  • Sneezing
  • Itchy sinuses, ear canals, or throat
  • A runny or stuffy nose
  • Ear congestion
  • Postnasal drainage
  • Itchy or watery eyes

Keep in mind, too, that people can develop allergies at any age. Just because your elderly loved one has never had allergies before doesn’t mean they can’t develop them now!

Reduce Exposure to Triggers

What’s one of the most effective ways you can help reduce allergy symptoms in your elderly loved one? Recognize their allergy triggers and reduce their exposure to them. Common allergy triggers include:

  • Pollen
  • Grass
  • Pine trees
  • Dust
  • Smoke
  • Chlorine
  • Mold

Pay attention to the triggers that are in your elderly loved one’s immediate environment during flare-ups, and take steps to reduce exposure as much as possible. Staying indoors with closed windows is the best way to avoid triggers like pollen, grass, and pine trees. Inside, make sure to dust and clean regularly to avoid dust and mold buildup. If it gets stuffy inside, turn on a high-powered fan for air circulation. And don’t forget to encourage your elderly loved one to bathe and change their clothing after being outdoors to prevent them from carrying allergens on themselves for the rest of the day.

How Can Allergies Affect Seniors?

The symptoms of allergies—commonly, a runny nose and itchy, watery eyes—are a nuisance to most people, but not a major health concern. For seniors, however, this isn’t always the case. Not only can allergy symptoms cause complications for seniors with pre-existing respiratory or cardiovascular problems, but medications can cause a whole host of other problems.

Antihistamines—a common allergy treatment medication—can increase blood pressure, for instance. And beyond that, antihistamines can also interact with other medications seniors may be on, causing severe side effects like confusion, dry mouth, dizziness, and urinary retention (which can increase your elderly loved one’s risk of contracting a urinary tract infection).

Besides allergy medication, other prescriptions your elderly loved one may be on can also cause issues. Beta-blockers—a type of medication often prescribed to seniors with hypertension—can worsen nasal stuffiness, for instance. Allergy symptoms, medications, and preexisting conditions certainly affect and influence one another, which is why it’s essential to monitor and minimize allergens as much as possible during the dreaded pollen season in addition to consulting a medical professional to talk about other allergy treatments, like nasal steroids and topical medications.

How DispatchHealth Can Help

If your elderly loved one is suffering this allergy season, don’t fret; DispatchHealth can help. From respiratory illness exacerbations due to allergy symptoms to prescriptions for allergy treatment, we’ve got you covered. At DispatchHealth, we provide the modern-day house call; when you request care via phone, our website, or our app, we’ll be at your doorstep within a couple of hours with most of the gear you’ll find in the emergency room. And we accept most major forms of insurance, too, including Medicare and Medicaid. But if you’re not insured, don’t worry—we also offer an affordable flat rate for our services. And to ensure we’re all on the same page about your elderly loved one’s treatment, we’ll be sure to send a detailed medical report to their primary care physician, home health agency, and living community. Contact us today to learn more or request care.


DispatchHealth relies only on authoritative sources, including medical associations, research institutions, and peer-reviewed medical studies.

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The DispatchHealth blog provides tips, tricks and advice for improving lives through convenient, comfortable healthcare.

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