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It is crazy but true that Allergies can change over time. As we get older, many changes take place in body and mind. Eyesight or memory may decline, and taste buds may shift as they do continually through life. But something many of us don’t realize is that you can develop a new allergy, or an allergy you have had your whole life could just disappear.
You could find yourself kept indoors by an onslaught of first time pollen allergies or you could find your family cat isn’t making you sneeze anymore. Either way, it is fascinating to learn about how the human body responds to the environment around us, especially as we age. Let’s dig into the facts about allergies and aging to see how they could affect you.
What are allergies?
Allergies are a reaction from your immune system to a foreign substance that should not cause a response in normal circumstances, basically, a false alarm (medlineplus.gov). These substances are called allergens. Once your immune system identifies an allergen as harmful, it will produce antibodies to fight and target the perceived threat. Here are some common allergens and possible symptoms according to mayoclinic.org:
Pollen: Seasonal allergies are often caused by pollen from plants such as ragweed and can cause…
– Itching of the nose, eyes or roof of the mouth
– Runny, stuffy nose
– Watery, red or swollen eyes
Food: Wheat, nuts, milk, shellfish, and egg are common foods that can trigger an allergic reaction through the following symptoms…
– Tingling in the mouth
– Swelling of the lips, tongue, face or throat
Drugs: Medicines such as tylenol, penicillin, and chemotherapy drugs can cause symptoms such as (acaai.org)…
– Skin rash or hives
– Wheezing or other breathing problems
Factors That May Impact Allergies
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Many things can affect allergy responses. The environment around you is full of allergens that can be inhaled, such as pollen, mold, dander, and dust. The seasons and weather can cause a fluctuation in how much of these are in the air at any given time outside and inside, it is dependent upon such things as a pet being present, how often things are dusted and cleaned, or if there are damp dark spots for mold to grow.
Genetics can also play a role. Those born to families plagued by allergic conditions are often more susceptible to developing their own allergies, though not necessarily to the same substances.
Age can also play a factor in allergies, especially when it comes to developing a new one or the increasing severity. This is due to a decline in the speed and strength of the immune system called immunosenescence, coupled with age-related changes in tissue structure.
Can Allergies Change Over Time?
Allergies are one of the most common, chronic disorders, and yes, allergies can change over time (health.clevelandclinic.org). Sometimes an allergy you had as a youth can fade as you enter adulthood. The immune system may end up building a tolerance to the allergen, learning to accept it as non threatening.
Unfortunately, it is often the case that allergies are more likely to develop as you age than to fade away. The immune system fluctuates and changes with age. Just as your immune system can sometimes build up a tolerance to an allergen, it can also lose its tolerance to an allergen as it becomes weaker.
Allergy Treatments and Remedies
There is, sadly, no cure for allergies. However there are some things that could help control, ease, and reduce your allergy symptoms:
1. Reduce Exposure
The best way to manage allergy symptoms is to avoid the triggers as much as you can. If you are allergic to a certain type of food, read ingredient labels and be careful ordering out. If you are allergic to pollen, avoid outdoor activities on windy days or days with high pollen counts.
2. Improve Your Health
Studies show that getting regular exercise and eating a healthy diet can do wonders for many chronic conditions, including allergies. Not only can improved overall health help your immune system build tolerance to allergens, eating certain foods such as pineapples, nuts, seafood, ginger, apples, berries, turmeric, and yogurt can help ease the symptoms as well.
3. Allergy Proof Your House
Do what you can to keep the allergens like pollen, dust, mold, and dander in your home at a minimum with extra cleaning practices. Use HEPA air filters and clean them often. Vacuum twice a week and use a HEPA filter for vacuum as well so particles don’t get blown back in the air.
There are special covers that can be placed over pillows and mattresses to prevent build up. Dust often and do not leave windows or doors open to let allergens blow in. Fortunately for seniors residing in assisted living or nursing homes, many of these precautions are considered.
4. Over the Counter Drugs
Antihistamines and Decongestants are the most common over the counter drugs used to treat allergy symptoms and are available over the counter at your local pharmacy. They are great because they can relieve your symptoms, but also can cause some of their own side effects.
The side effects can range from mild to severe with drowsiness and headaches being the most common mild effects experienced, while trouble breathing and seizures are some of the more extreme, and rare, reactions.
5. Prescription Drugs
For more severe allergies there are prescription drugs that can help, in the form of pills, nasal sprays, eye drops, inhalers etc. Types of drugs can include antihistamines, decongestants, corticosteroids, mast cell stabilizers, leukotriene inhibitors, and more. These also have a range of side effects from mild to severe. If your allergies are severe, your doctor may prescribe 1-2 epipens to keep with you.
Your body is carefully and steadily exposed to the allergen in an attempt to teach the body to not react to it. This is used most often with hard to avoid allergens like dust and pollen. The treatment can be administered through a shot or, in some cases, by putting a dissolvable table under your tongue (mayoclinic.org).
The idea that local honey can ease your allergy response is based on this idea, although there is no scientific evidence to support this popular belief. That is because it is impossible to really know what pollen is in your honey, and the pollen insects collect rarely are connected to allergies, as bees do not harvest from the top allergen producing plants (webmd.com).
7. Rinse Your Sinuses
Using a neti pot or a squeeze bottle to clean out your sinuses will clear out lingering irritants. This allows temporary relief from congestion, while proving longer-lasting relief by removing allergens from your sinuses.
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There are a plethora of ways to try and combat your allergies. Depending on the severity of the allergy, it can get hard to manage all of the preventative steps and treatments as you get older.
Consider if staying somewhere that can help lighten the load could be right for you. With a clean, allergen-free environment and experienced care professionals on hand, Suncrest can help you get the most of your allergy treatment plan.
Each person is unique and finding a way to manage allergies and the symptoms can be a process of trial and error as you learn what is best for you. Consulting with a doctor or a professional allergist can help you get farther along the way.
Suncrest Senior Living
This information was provided by Suncrest Senior Living. Suncrest offers memory care and assisted living care with several home-based locations in Southeast Michigan.
Interested in learning more about Suncrest Senior Living? Contact Suncrest online, or call at (248) 207-5378.
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