Seniors and Allergies - When are you too old?

July 6, 2022

Do you have allergies? I do. Pollen, hay, grass – summers on the farm were almost the end of me. Luckily we moved to the city, but there is always pollen. Sixty years later, the pollen season is still a horrible time for me. My parents were allergy-free, but my mother always sneezed when I told a whopper. She said she was allergic to nonsense. 

I thought as I got older, my allergies would lessen. Age hardens us to many things, and also to some allergies. However, my mother remained allergic to my nonsense until her dying day. You are probably more interested in allergies and seniors than in my childhood, right?

What Are The Most Common Allergies?

It is estimated that 50 million Americans suffer from at least one allergy. Women are affected more often than men and younger people more often than older people. Living in a big city increases the risk of developing an allergy, interestingly enough. 

The most common allergic diseases include:

  • Drug exanthema (skin rash)
  • Asthma
  • House dust allergy
  • Hay fever
  • Dog allergy
  • Insect venom allergy
  • Cat allergy
  • Food allergy

Lactose intolerance affects around 65% of the world’s population. Do you have a dairy allergy? Some children have milk allergies, but the number is quite small, about 3%. 

Can you be allergic to summer? Yes! Does your skin sometimes develop small hives? Especially in the summer, when heat can be trapped next to the body by clothing. Yes! You can even be allergic to heat or the sun. Spicy foods can cause this reaction too, as can stress!  You can even be allergic to heat or the sun.

Food allergies in older adults are also not uncommon. Chocolate might trigger your allergy, as cocoa can cause allergic reactions in some people. The caffeine in your morning coffee may be the culprit. However, with a caffeine allergy, the severity of symptoms is typically linked to how fast they develop. Skin rashes are perhaps the main differentiating feature between a caffeine intolerance and a caffeine allergy.

“Nine foods cause the most food allergy reactions. They are milk, soy, eggs, wheat, peanuts, tree nuts, sesame, fish, and shellfish.” AAFA

What Is An Allergy, And What Is Intolerance? 

I think my mother was intolerant to my whoppers, and not actually allergic. When we talk about the difference, we most often talk about food. Sudden reactions to certain substances can be much more dangerous than a runny nose or itchy eyes.

An anaphylactic shock can be life-threatening if you are allergic to insect stings, foods like nuts or shellfish, or even some medications. Sudden allergy symptoms can also manifest themselves in a skin rash too.

Symptoms of a mild food allergy or intolerance may be similar. Food intolerance doesn’t involve the nervous system, but an allergic reaction to food can be quite severe.

“A food allergy occurs when the immune system reacts to a harmless food. Food intolerance occurs when the body has a chemical reaction to eating a particular food or drink.” 

Better Health

Can You Be Too Old For Allergies?

Can you develop allergies at seventy? Yes! 

You would think as we get older, our body would find a natural resistance against allergens, but it seems not always to be the case. Allergies can occur in the elderly simply due to the aging of our cells. As we age, our body tissues modify, which can open us up to allergic reactions meaning the possibility of increasing allergies with age. (National Library of Medicine

As we age, we take more medications. These can also bring with them allergic reactions we had previously not experienced. Often what we experience, nausea, back pain, chest pain, coughing, diarrhea, etc., are side effects rather than allergic reactions. Whenever you experience an unexpected reaction, contact your caregiver or doctor immediately.

Not everyone ages in the same way. If you are unsure if you have an allergy that previously existed, you should ask your doctor. Even people in their seventies and eighties can develop treatable allergies. (

“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.” Dispatch Health 

How Can I Treat My Allergy?

Once allergy triggers have been uncovered, the best way for those affected to prevent the symptoms is to avoid the allergens in question. In the case of some allergies, such as hay fever, however, this is almost impossible. In such cases, allergy medications such as antihistamines can alleviate the symptoms.

For allergies of the immediate type, there is often the option of allergen-specific immunotherapy, also called hyposensitization or desensitization. This therapy aims to accustom the immune system to the allergy-causing substances and thus weaken its excessive reaction.

In addition, the benefits of homeopathy have already been proven in scientific studies for, among other things: Allergies, especially hay fever.

Sometimes the best offense is a good defense. Try reducing exposure to allergens.

How Can I Avoid Allergic Reactions?

For yourself, or if you are a caretaker, the best way to help reduce allergy symptoms is to recognize allergy triggers to reduce exposure. Some common triggers include pollen, dust, smoke, chlorine, and mold.

If you can reduce exposure to triggers, you can reduce possible exposure.

  • Read food and medicine packaging
  • Ask your pharmacist for advice
  • Ask food service workers for a list of ingredients
  • Dust and vacuum often
  • Stay indoors on high pollen count days
  • Use a portable air filtering system
  • Change clothing after being outdoors, and perhaps shower

When we are younger, allergy symptoms may be minor, but as we age, complications may turn a simple allergic reaction into something more serious.

It isn’t just those tiny particles in the air that can be troublesome either. For instance, Antihistamines, a common allergy treatment medication, may bring a whole host of problems. They can increase blood pressure and can interact with other medications, causing side effects.

Other prescription medications can also cause issues. Beta-blockers can worsen nasal stuffiness. Allergy symptoms, medications, and preexisting conditions can affect and influence each other. 

You should always ask your doctor or pharmacist for advice before taking medication and if a sudden, new reaction occurs.

How Do You Conquer Your Allergies?

How will you be taking care of your allergies today? We’d love to know. Then go ahead and share this with your friends. Want to read more articles like this? We invite you to subscribe to our newsletter where we send weekly emails with helpful and fun articles

Senior Living FYI

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