(Last Updated On: May 8, 2023)

Do Allergies Get Worse with Age?

As we grow older, our body changes and so does our immune system. Aging individuals may lose their tolerance to potential allergens such as pollen or pet dander. As one ages, the immune system also becomes less efficient, making it more likely for seniors to develop new allergies. Some of the most common allergies patients develop as they age include ragweed and pet dander. Additionally, constant exposure to certain environmental factors over the years can lead to a growing intolerance that results in allergy symptoms. To complicate matters, seniors often take multiple medications that can make it difficult to manage and treat their allergies.

Senior Black woman holding a tissue, wiping her nose

Allergies and Aging

Aging affects our immune system, making us more susceptible to developing or worsening existing allergies. Changes in our immune system with age can make us more sensitive to allergens that we were previously able to tolerate without issue. “As we age, our immune systems get weaker, putting older Americans at higher risk for disease, including allergic reactions,” according to Dr. Tiffany Owens, an allergist at the Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center.

Age-related hormonal fluctuations and medications can also contribute to increased sensitivity toward allergens or worsen existing allergy symptoms. Environmental pollutants such as air pollution are also known to exacerbate pre-existing health concerns, including allergies, in older individuals.

How Does Aging Affect Allergies?

As we age, our immune system undergoes changes that can lead to the development of new allergies against substances that were previously tolerated. Changes in the immune system due to aging mean that one’s immune system may no longer be able to recognize certain allergens or respond adequately enough to protect against them. This could result in an increased sensitivity towards allergens over time, and prolonged symptoms from exposure even after treatment. Hormonal fluctuations during menopause and medications used for other medical conditions common in older people can also make allergy symptoms worse while reducing their effectiveness when treating existing ones.

What Causes Allergies To Get Worse With Age?

As we age, our bodies become more vulnerable to allergens. Exposure history is a major factor in increased sensitivity; the longer you are exposed to an allergen, the higher your chances of developing an allergy or having existing symptoms worsen. Certain medicines taken by older individuals may further intensify allergies. This coupled with certain environmental factors, such as pollution, makes it even more of a challenge for aging individuals already plagued with allergies.

As our immunity levels diminish with the advancing years, it can become increasingly difficult for our body’s natural defense system to adequately guard us against allergic reactions that were easier to defend against when we were younger. To reduce the severity of allergy symptoms, it is important to understand your individual triggers.

Managing Allergies in the Elderly

Allergies have a larger impact on the lives and health of older individuals. Allergy symptoms, such as nasal congestion, cough, and an irritated throat, can be dangerous for older people with cardiovascular problems or lung disease. Allergies in the elderly should be treated as rapidly as possible. Over-the-counter and natural solutions are best when treating seniors with allergies.

Saline nasal sprays can help rinse allergens out of sinuses and nasal passages. Rinsing eyes with preservative-free saline washes are recommended as well. Using cool mist humidifiers or HEPA-certified air purifiers can help keep airways moistened and reduce the severity of reactions. Reducing humidity levels through dehumidification or the use of air conditioning systems can also be beneficial. Additionally, removing rugs, carpets, and vacuuming weekly is also recommended. If possible, do not allow pets to sleep on beds when pollen counts are high.

Frequently Asked Questions Regarding Worsening Allergies With Age

Do allergies always get worse with age?

No, allergies do not necessarily get worse with age. However, the severity of allergic reactions may increase as a person ages due to changes in the immune system and increased exposure to allergens over time. Some individuals may experience more intense allergic reactions as they age due to new allergies or increased sensitivities.

Can food allergies get worse as you get older?

Yes, food allergies can worsen as you age. As people age, their immune systems may become more reactive to allergens, potentially resulting in the worsening of existing food allergies or the development of new ones. Some individuals may acquire allergies as they age due to changes in their environment or lifestyle.

Do allergies worsen the more they occur?

Yes, allergies can get worse the more they occur. Continuous contact with certain allergens can lead to a lasting heightened sensitivity, causing the symptoms to become more severe.

Managing Age-Related Allergies

It is important for seniors and those with elderly family members to be mindful of the potential risks associated with the aging-related worsening of allergies. Taking preventative measures such as avoiding exposure to known triggers and treating existing symptoms promptly will help reduce the risk of developing or worsening allergies.

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