By Ashley Gay, PharmD, Gayco Consultant Pharmacist
Allergy season is upon us. Allergies often present themselves in our younger years, but seniors are not exempt. To complicate matters further, seniors often have chronic diseases and take multiple medications that can make it difficult to diagnose, manage and treat their seasonal allergies.
Caregivers should look for traditional signs like sneezing, coughing, congestion, runny nose, wheezing, and itchy, watery eyes. Allergy treatment should be quick and aggressive since it can be hazardous for residents with pre-existing heart problems or lung disease.
First-line treatment should include a topical steroid such as Flonase or budesonide. Saline nasal sprays can also help rinse allergens out of sinuses and nasal passages. Avoid first-generation antihistamines such as diphenhydramine (Benadryl) and chlorpheniramine. Potential side effects of these medications include anxiety, confusion, dry mouth, dizziness, and urine retention. They can also contribute to falls and urinary tract infections. Residents should avoid decongestants like pseudoephedrine and phenylephrine if they have hypertension, diabetes, and glaucoma. They can also cause insomnia. Newer antihistamines such as Claritin® (loratadine) and Allegra® (fexofenadine) tend to be safer and better tolerated. Zyrtec (cetirizine) is also an option but can be more sedating. Some antihistamines are available in prescription nasal sprays, such as Astepro® (azelastine) or Patanase® (olopatadine). These can be good options, too. Nasal sprays typically are not absorbed as much as oral antihistamines and may have fewer side effects. Zaditor® (ketotifen) is an over-the-counter eye drop for itching, watery eyes. There are multiple options available to keep our seniors from suffering. Don’t hesitate to contact your Gayco pharmacists if you have any questions regarding allergy treatments, dosing, or availability.