Helping Seniors Cope With Springtime Allergies

Spring is right around the corner, and with this seasonal transition comes blossoming plant life. Trees, grasses, weeds and flowers release pollen during this time of year as part of their natural reproduction cycle. While pollen can occur during any time of the year, it’s most prevalent during the spring season.

Unfortunately, many seniors are allergic to pollen. When exposed to pollen, they experience an allergy attack that’s characterized by symptoms such as sneezing, nasal congestion, runny nose, itchy eyes and fatigue. If you know a senior who suffers from springtime allergies, you should consider the following tips to help him or her cope with this autoimmune disorder.

Check the Pollen Count

Pollen is more severe on some days than others. The good news is that many news stations, as well as health organizations, track the pollen level in their respective area on a daily basis. Known as “pollen count,” this metric reflects the number of pollen grains per cubic meter of air.

If the pollen count is high, you should encourage the senior to stay indoors until it has subsided. It only takes a few minutes of exposure to pollen to trigger an allergy attack. By limiting their time outdoors when the pollen count is high, seniors can protect themselves from springtime allergies.

Change the Air Filter

If the senior suffers from springtime allergies, consider changing the air filter in his or her home. Most residential homes and dwellings have an air filter. It’s used in conjunction with the air conditioner and furnace — or heat pump — to remove particulate matter from the air. As cool or warm air circulates in the senior’s home, it will pass through the air filter.

Most heating, ventilation and cooling (HVAC) technicians recommend replacing the air filter once every two to three months. The beginning of spring, however, is always a great time to change the air filter because of the season’s pollen. A fresh air filter will trap more pollen, allowing for a cleaner and more enjoyable living space for the senior.

Focus on Anti-Inflammatory Foods

Another way to help a senior cope with springtime allergies is to encourage him or her to eat more anti-inflammatory foods. Inflammation is a hallmark symptom of an allergy attack. When a senior suffers an allergy attack, his or her immune system will release inflammatory chemicals that cause internal swelling.

So, what are some anti-inflammatory foods that seniors can eat to cope with springtime allergies? Here are a few of the top foods known to suppress inflammation:

  • Blueberries
  • Strawberries
  • Avocados
  • Nuts
  • Flaxseed
  • Whole grains
  • Spinach
  • Green tea

Schedule a Doctor’s Visit

Assuming the senior hasn’t already seen a doctor about his or her springtime allergies, you should consider scheduling a visit on their behalf. There are prescription drugs available that can help reduce the frequency and severity of allergy attacks.

For seniors, however, the most common type of allergy drug — antihistamines — may not be recommended. Antihistamines have a potential to cause dry mouth, water retention, dizziness and drowsiness. There are even some studies suggesting that frequent use of antihistamines can cause mood swings. For these reasons, doctors often recommend a different type of medication to prevent and treat springtime allergies. By taking the senior to the doctor, you can help him or her get the right treatment for their allergies.

Use a Humidifier

A humidifier can also prove useful for allergy-suffering seniors. Not to be confused with a dehumidifier, this device will raise the humidity level in the senior’s home. Humidifiers work by spraying small particles of water into the air. As these water droplets are released, the surrounding air becomes more humid.

How can a humidifier help seniors cope with springtime allergies? Well, when the air dry, pollen can travel more freely through the air. A humidifier makes the air more moist so that pollen is restricted. The moisture droplets in the air create a barrier that restricts pollen.

Know the Difference Between Allergies and Cold Infections

Because they share similar symptoms, springtime allergies and cold infections are often mistaken for each other. Therefore, you shouldn’t assume the senior is suffering from springtime allergies just because he or she is sneezing. The problem could be attributed to a cold infection rather than allergies.

Although they share similar similarities, there a few key differences between allergies and cold infections. Allergies, for instance, only manifest shortly after exposure to pollen (or other allergens), whereas cold infections can manifest anytime a person is exposed to the cold virus.

Cold infections typically last longer than allergy attacks. A springtime allergy attack may only last for one or two days, whereas a cold infection can last for up to a week. If a senior’s symptoms persist for three or more days, it’s probably a cold infection rather than an allergy attack.

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