Are Seniors Prone to Allergic Reactions?

Allergic reactions
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Allergic reactions are a common health concern.

Our bodies do not always function well.

Sometimes this occurs for a short period of time, like when the immune system is fighting the cold or flu.

Other times, the malfunctioning is chronic.

Allergies are a common example.

About 50 million Americans have allergies.

Likely, you are one of them.

Alergies are the sixth most prevalent chronic ailment in the United States.

According to a recent AARP article titled “5 Types of Allergies That Become More Common With Age,” between 5 and 10 percent of Americans older than age 65 either have chronic allergies or are experiencing allergic reactions for the first time.

Allergic reactions are common with foods, bites, stings, medications, and allergens.
Coughing is a common allergic reaction.

What are allergies?

Allergies are a response from the body when the immune system treats a relatively harmless substance as if it were an intruding allergen, germ, or virus.

What are common causes of allergic reactions?

Hay fever (allergic rhinitis).

Pollen is released from grasses, weeds, and trees in the non-winter season.

The reaction to these pollens is called hay fever and symptoms include coughing, sneezing, runny nose, stuffed nose, post-nasal drip, red eyes, watery eyes, dark circles under the eyes, and itchy eyes, nose and throat.

As one of the most common allergies, it affects about 5 million children and 20 million adults in America.

Common treatments include over-the-counter medications, anti-inflammatory nasal sprays or nasal steroids.

Insect allergies.

Insect allergies typically involve reactions to the bites or stings of hornets, honeybees, fire ants, paper wasps, and yellow jackets.

Typically, the allergic reactions include coughing, trouble breathing, shortness of breath, itchiness, hives, dizziness, nausea, stomach cramps, diarrhea, and swelling of the face, tongue, and throat.

For severe reactions, the anaphylactic response can be life threatening and occur within 30 minutes of the bite or sting.

When this happens, emergency action should be taken.

Call 911.

Skin allergies.

Allergic contact dermatitis happens when the skin touches an irritant or allergen.

Common plant irritants include poison oak, poison ivy, or poison sumac.

Some people even have reactions to skin products, chemicals in lotions, and nickel in jewelry.

The reactions typically involve swelling, redness, and itchiness.

These often worsen the more a person scratches.

Food allergies.

Food allergies typically come from your immune system reacting to specific proteins found in foods.

Common culprits include eggs, fish, milk from cows, shellfish, peanuts, soy, tree nuts, and wheat.

Reactions can include hives, sneezing, vomiting, diarrhea, swelling, stomach cramps, stuffy or itchy nose, teary or itchy eyes, and red or itchy skin.

Signs of anaphylaxis requiring an emergency response include trouble breathing, tingling of hands, wheezing, tightening chest, stomach cramps, diarrhea, vomiting, and swelling of lips, feet, and scalp.

Drug allergies.

Seniors tend to have numerous prescriptions.

With the increased usage of medications comes a corresponding increase in opportunities for allergic reactions.

Some medications are more often linked to allergic reaction than others.

These include insulin, antibiotic like penicillin, anti-seizure drugs, substances with iodine, chemotherapy drugs, anticonvulsants, and anti-inflammatory medications like ibuprofen.

Although allergies can strike at any age, they can be particularly scary for seniors.

If you or someone you care about are taking multiple prescription medications, then you should have your pharmacist review them for any potentially harmful interactions.

Reference: AARP (Dec. 1, 2022) “5 Types of Allergies That Become More Common With Age”

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