Seasonal allergies in older adults

Spring’s bounty brings lovely flowering trees and blissful sunshine. Lurking in the warm air for many people, though, are pollens and other allergens that can cause great discomfort.

If your senior is suffering from sneezing, a runny nose, and watery, itchy eyes, and it’s clearly seasonal allergies, she’ll probably want relief with an antihistamine. Note, however, that side effects from over-the-counter allergy medications can be very uncomfortable for older adults, who may already be suffering from some of the same effects through prescription medications or simple aging. Be wary of the constipation, dry mouth and eyes, drowsiness, dizziness, and urinary retention that can come with earlier-generation antihistamines like Chlor-Trimeton® and Benadryl®.

The newer antihistamines can be a better choice for older people because the side effects are typically fewer or milder. Zyrtec®, Claritin®, and Allegra® can bring welcome relief when taken short term. It’s wise to consult a pharmacist specializing in senior health.

Allergy symptoms can include a cough and dry throat. Have your senior drink lots of water, fruit juice, or hot tea to help clear mucus. Encourage your senior to keep beverages handy and take small sips as soon as a coughing fit erupts. Humidifiers can offer relief by alleviating dry indoor air. To help with nighttime coughing, have your older adult use extra pillows and sleep with his head elevated.