Spring is in the air – and so are pollen, grass, pet dander, insects and even mold. It’s allergy season in Tennessee. And while most of us emerge from the allergen-induced fog unscathed, seniors with certain chronic health issues should take extra precaution during the season.
Dr. Christopher Randolph, a member of the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology’s Asthma & Allergic Diseases in the Elderly Committee, says traditional allergy symptoms such as congestion, for instance, can lead to more dangerous complications in patients with cardiovascular disease. He says caregivers should be on the lookout for symptoms associated with allergens, such as sneezing, watery eyes and a runny nose.
Most of these mild symptoms can be treated with increased fluids, rest and over the counter medications (although Randolph warns that the side effects of powerful antihistamines can leave seniors disoriented, dizzy and dehydrated), but if symptoms persist or worsen, it’s time to see your primary care physician.
In the meantime, here are a few things you can do right now to help you survive this allergy season:
1) Keep clean. Try to keep indoor floors and surfaces free of outdoor dirt and other allergens. If feasible, keep the shoes you wear outside in one place in the house to avoid tracking allergens that land on your shoes all over the house.
2) Don’t forget your furry friends. If you have pets, bathe them at least once a week and regularly clean their indoor bedding.
3) Watch the clock. If you take walks outside, avoid early morning (between 5 a.m. and 10 a.m.) and early evening as those are the times of day when pollen levels are at their highest. And avoid outdoor activity on windy days.
4) Change your diet. Green tea, for example, has natural antihistamines which can bring some relief to allergy sufferers. Adding foods like yogurt that rich in probiotics to your diet can help regulate your immune system and reduce your allergy symptoms.
5) Cover up. Wear gloves when gardening and avoid touching your hands to your face. Keeping covered can also help prevent insect bites.