The short answer is yes, the likelihood of respiratory allergies
seem to increase as we age.
?Two studies have confirmed that airway hyper-responsiveness is far
more common amongst the elderly than previously recognized, with
prevalence rates ranging 29?43%. Measurement of bronchial
responsiveness is feasible and clinically valuable in elderly
subjects: the accepted concepts that airway hyper-responsiveness in
the geriatric population is associated with accelerated decline in
forced expiratory volume in one second?
?In her study of 80 senior citizens over age 65, published in the
May issue of Annals of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology, Huss found that
two thirds had either moderate or severe persistent asthma caused
primarily by elements in the home such as dust mites, mold, and
allergens from cockroaches, cats and dogs. Asthma medication was
either not being used or used improperly.
"Asthma is a significant, chronic problem in the elderly," says Huss.
"Despite the high prevalence, major allergens in the homes have not
been identified. We conducted home visits to collect dust samples and
evidence of other allergens. That is the first step in alleviating the
Almost 75 percent of senior citizens in the study tested positive to
an airborne allergen, and 53 percent were skin test positive to at
least one indoor allergen. Although the elderly with asthma were
primarily sensitive to indoor allergens, the second most prevalent
allergen was Bermuda grass. Allergen levels in the homes were often
high enough to place the elderly at risk for asthma complications.
"Our data suggest that high allergen levels found in the homes of
older adults with asthma are from carpeting, older furnishings, high
indoor relative humidities and non-encased mattresses," says Huss.
"Cockroach exposure is also a significant cause of asthma in these
older adults, and exposures to furred pets are important triggers for
asthma, as well."
There are numerous factors why it would appear that as we age, we
have more respiratory problems. Not all of them are due to allergies.
Asthma and respiratory problems can be triggered by acid reflux
(heartburn) that may increase as we age. As we grow older, our lungs
do not work as well as they once did; repeated exposure to allergens,
smoking, air pollution, our overall health, medications we take, and
new foods can cause allergies and allergy-like symptoms.
?Some factors are implicated in the increased prevalence of this
phenomenon in the elderly. These are represented by the reduced lung
function, which occurs with ageing and the chronic exposure to
smoking. Also, when present, an allergic condition strongly influences
the response to stimuli in the elderly. The authors propose that
assessment of airway hyperresponsiveness should be considered in
elderly subjects with a long history of smoking exposure and/or
documented allergy conditions. This would help to prevent asthma from
occurring in the elderly.?
The clinical significance of these observations lies in the fact
that elderly subjects are at higher risk of developing excessive
airway narrowing, with increased asthma morbidity and mortality in
this aged population.?
I learned a few years ago, that researcher think that our
?overclean? environment may be triggering the increase in allergies.
In the ?old days? before the prevalence of antiseptics, antibiotics,
washing machines, and all the other ways we now have to be clean,
there supposedly were fewer allergies. Our bodies still produce
antibodies to fight germs, viruses, etc., but with a lack of natural
enemies, our immune systems have begun to attack dust, pollen, fumes,
etc. as if they were organisms.
?Interaction of heredity and environment. The tendency to become
allergic is inherited and is controlled by several genes that
influence production of IgE antibodies. Allergic disease develops
only when a person becomes exposed to those allergens to which he has
a genetic predisposition. There is increasing evidence to suggest
that predisposition to respiratory allergy may also be increased by
protection from bacterial exposure in early childhood (such as
aggressive antibiotic therapy of respiratory infection, and avoidance
of exposure to animals). Perinatal and infantile avoidance of food
allergens may postpone development of food allergy in susceptible
?It is not yet fully understood why some substances trigger
allergies and others do not, nor why every person does not develop an
allergic reaction after exposure to allergens. A family history of
allergies is the single most important factor that predisposes a
person to develop allergic disease. If one parent has allergic
disease, the estimated risk of the child to develop allergies is 48%;
the child's risk grows to 70% if both parents have allergies.?
?The study results show that small increases in fine particle air
pollution resulted in increased hospital admissions for heart and
vascular disease, heart failure, chronic obstructive pulmonary
disease, and respiratory infection. "The data show that study
participants over 75 years of age experienced even greater increases
in admissions for heart problems and chronic obstructive pulmonary
disease than those between 65 and 74 years of age," said National
Institutes of Health Director Elias A. Zerhouni, M.D.?
?"These findings provide compelling evidence that fine particle
concentrations well below the national standard are harmful to the
cardiovascular and respiratory health of our elderly citizens," said
NIEHS Director David A. Schwartz, M.D. "Now that the link between
inhaled particles and adverse health effects has been established, we
must focus our efforts on understanding why these particles are
harmful, and how these effects can be prevented."
?When it comes to allergy sufferers, all people are not the same.
Children, the elderly, athletes and pregnant women have been
identified as groups requiring different management and care,
according to newly released treatment guidelines for allergic
rhinitis, developed at a consensus conference convened by the Office
of Continuing Medical Education, UCLA School of Medicine.
In women, allergic rhinitis symptoms may worsen during pregnancy.
While fewer factors provoke rhinitis in the elderly, treatment needs
to be more tailored due to slower metabolism and the potential for
side effects. Also, this population is more likely to be taking
multiple medications, including over-the-counter medications, and
therefore runs a greater risk of drug interactions than most other
"Because each of these groups has very special needs, their management
and treatment needs to be individualized," said Sheldon Spector, M.D.,
clinical professor of medicine, UCLA School of Medicine. "In young
children, for example, medication dosage should be prescribed
according to their size."
?Cholinergic and alpha-adrenergic hyperactivity are common causes
of rhinitis in elderly patients. The increased cholinergic response
may partly be the result of activation by various foods (ie, gustatory
rhinitis). Although ipratropium may be the obvious choice for this
type of watery rhinorrhea, some elderly patients may be concerned by
unwanted adverse effects, particularly loss of bladder control.
Therefore, antihistamines (eg, fexofenadine, cetirizine, loratadine)
?Because 44% of patients with allergic rhinitis may have
concomitant nonallergic rhinitis, it is estimated that an additional
26 million people have a nonallergic component to their rhinitis
(mixed rhinitis). Therefore, a total estimated 45 million people have
either pure nonallergic rhinitis or mixed rhinitis. Because
nonallergic rhinitis is common, it is important to differentiate this
condition from rhinitis of allergic etiology. Once the diagnosis is
established, an appropriate treatment plan tailored to a specific
diagnosis can be optimally designed.?
?These data are consistent with results of previous studies showing
an association between major depression and allergy among adults and
extend these data by providing preliminary evidence suggesting that
this association is specific to women and independent of the effects
of neuroticism among women. In addition, the data provide preliminary
evidence that neuroticism may be related to allergy among men, though
no link between depression and allergy was found among men. Future
research with prospective, longitudinal studies is needed next to
understand the possible biological underpinnings of these
Not a ?pretty? page, but this site is filled with great information
about respiratory allergies:
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Elderly + allergies
Respiratory allergies + elderly
Allergies + senior citizens