Aging Puts More People at Risk for Allergies
Posted by Jamie on Monday, October 20, 2008
In a recent Wall Street Journal article, writer Kelly Greene explores the link between aging and the increased risk for developing allergies. The commonly held belief that allergies and asthma subside with age is proving to be incorrect. According to Greene, allergies affect 17% to 20% of the U.S. population. The numbers affected do not decrease with age.

Reasons for an allergy flare up later in life are diverse. Moving to another part of the country, accumulating exposures over a long period of time, and changing health conditions are all possibilities. The most prominent of these is a move to another part of the country, particularly to a different climate. Retiring and relocating to a mild climate where pollen is prevalent year round is a common allergy trigger. After a few years, you can build up reactive cells that respond to allergens and cause allergy flare-ups.

Some doctors point to the “Lifetime Load” theory. As you age, you can become sensitive to things you may have had with you for a very long time. For instance, through the course of time, you become more sensitive to mold because of long term exposure to older household goods. "With aging and allergies, one thought is that the sheer duration and breadth [of] stuff you get exposed to over life have a cumulative effect that winds up eventually sensitizing the body's immune system -- and creating an allergy you didn't have before," says Dr. James Pacala, a geriatrician and professor at the University of Minnesota Medical School.

So, what is the best way to deal with allergies in later life? First, stop ignoring the symptoms and seek treatment. Allergy symptoms are not simply signs of getting older. If you are suffering from nasal drip, reddening of the eyes, wheezing, or other symptoms, you have to get help to feel better. The article and we at achoo! allergy do not recommend over-the-counter medications. Some of these medicines can exacerbate heart problems as well as cause dizziness or drowsiness. The side effects could lead to more health problems for older patients. Most importantly, they may interact with prescription medicines causing severe side effects.

Once you assess the problem, you can turn your attention to a remedy. One popular remedy is a NetiPot. The Netipot allows you to pour a saline solution into your nose to clean the nostrils and to rinse the allergen away. If the particles triggering the allergic response are flushed from the nasal passages the symptoms will subside. During the winter, a second solution is to purchase a humidifier. When you have the heat on in your home, the air inside the home becomes very dry, and one unfortunate side effect of growing older is the natural drying of airways. Drier nasal passages and airways lessens the effectiveness of cilia to purge these pathways of allergens. Humidifiers keep inside air from drying out your nasal and air passages.

In our society, allergies and asthma are considered an affliction of the young, but that is a mistaken assumption. Aging puts more people at risk for developing allergies and asthma, and people need to consider that as a possible reason for their allergy symptoms.

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