It’s been a long, brutal winter and spring has finally arrived. You baby boomers are more than ready to enjoy the glorious weather and ACHOO! Unfortunately, spring allergies are here as well. Suddenly, your nose is constantly running or stuffed up, your eyes are itchy and watery, and the sneezing fits won’t stop.
As a matter of fact, it is estimated that more than 50 million people in the U.S. suffer from allergies each year and we baby boomers are certainly not immune. However, spring allergies and commonly used drugs such as decongestants and antihistamines affect us differently as we age.
Here is what you need to know:
Baby Boomer Allergy Complications
The bad news first. Maybe you’re mystified because you’re suddenly suffering from allergies when you’ve never had hay fever before in your life. Guess what? Allergies sometimes make their first appearance in our golden years.
Wait, there’s more. The supporting cartilage around the nose often weakens as we age, leading to narrowing airways and a a stuffed nose. This annoying problem has a name, “geriatric rhinitis.” In addition, less blood flow can lead to more nasal dryness. These issues that arise as we get older can make allergies feel even worse.
But there’s plenty of drugs to help us out, right?
Hold on a second. Before you start popping over-the-counter decongestants and antihistamines, know that these drugs can be hazardous for those with cardiovascular problems or lung disease. In addition, these commonly used medications can have dangerous side effects like raising blood pressure, drowsiness, confusion, dizziness, and urinary tract symptoms. Allergy medications can also interact with drugs commonly prescribed to baby boomers, causing mood swings, changes in behavior, and insomnia. On top of that, decongestants and antihistamines can dry the nasal passages making symptoms worse.
Okay, that’s the bad news, but not all is hopeless. What can we baby boomers suffering from hay fever do?
Try Natural Solutions
Head off spring allergies by starting to treat them before you feel anything, advises Nathanael Horne, MD, of New York Medical College. One step is to spritz a saline rinse into your nose daily to wash away pollen, an article in Reader’s Digest suggests. This method won’t necessarily take the place of medication, but it could reduce your need for drugs. In one study, participants who rinsed their sinuses twice a day for three to six weeks reported less nasal congestion than those who didn’t.
Neti pots, small plastic pots that look like a miniature tea pot or perhaps an enchanted genie lamp, have been used since ancient times in India. I’ll admit, leaning forward and putting the pot in one nostril so a salt and water solution runs through your nasal passages and comes out your other nostril, feels a bit weird – and gross – at first. However, studies show that it thins mucus and helps flush out the nasal passages of pollen. In general, it is recommended you use the nasal irrigation system daily at first, and once symptoms have subsided, three times a week.
Acupuncture may also help relieve hay fever, according to new research published in the Annals of Internal Medicine. In the study, allergy sufferers who were randomly assigned to a dozen acupuncture sessions had more symptom relief and used less antihistamine medication.
Okay, this may be a “no duh” but if you’re allergic to flowers or freshly mowed grass, avoid these allergens. Keep an eye on the pollen count in your area and avoid going outdoors when the numbers are high. Also, on these days, keep windows closed and use air conditioning when possible.
Remember, pollen sticks to you. So, if you can’t resist going outdoors, when you return home, remove your shoes and clothes, take a shower and wash your hair, and put on some fresh clothes. Do not dry your clothes outside on a clothesline this time of year; use a dryer.
Consider using a high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filter in your air conditioner or heating system which can help ease allergy symptoms. And also having frequent to make sure your A/C is working right. Freestanding air purifiers with HEPA filters are also available. If you don’t have a HEPA filter in your cleaner, you may be making your symptoms worse by stirring up pollen that has settled on your floor and furniture, says Selina Gierer, an allergy expert at the University of Kansas Medical Center.
If Allergies are Severe Talk to Your Doctor as Soon as Possible
If none of these suggestions help, you may need to nip those allergies in the bud with drugs. If you have other serious health issues, your doctor may not be focused on allergies. But if you’re having problems, it’s better to start treating symptoms before they get out of hand.
Because traditional decongestants and antihistamines have so many side effects, talk with your doctor about alternative treatments like a nasal steroid.
You may also want to consider allergy shots. In a study of people between the ages of 65 and 75 with hay fever published in the Annals of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology, allergy shots reduced symptoms by 55 percent after three years of therapy and decreased the amount of medication needed by 64 percent.
“Hay fever is often ignored in older patients as a less significant health problem because of diseases such as asthma, coronary heart disease, depression, and high blood pressure,” Dr. Ira Finegold, past president of the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology, says in a news release. “Also, some baby boomers might not realize they have allergies, and their physicians might not suggest allergy shots. The research indicated that allergy shots were extremely effective for this group.”
So, there you go my fellow baby boomers. Try these tips so you can curb your spring allergies and enjoy the spring season!