Age-Related Allergies: A Growing Problem

One of the benefits of growing old used to be a reprieve from seasonal allergy symptoms. But many people are finding that the itching, sneezing, and coughing accompanied with allergies continues even with advancing age.

The Connection Between Allergies and Age

You'd think that in your golden years, you'd be able to count on your allergies to cease. But while this was indeed true some generations ago, the connection between allergies and age seems has shifted in the past few decades.  Researchers from Children's Mercy Hospital and Clinic in Kansas City discovered that people over the age of 55 today have double the level of allergy antibodies in their system than their counterparts did in the 1970s. This is because the decline of antibody levels for those advanced in age has been much slower than it used to be. To reach this conclusion, researchers compared data from the Tucson Epidemiological Study (TES) conducted more than 30 years ago with recent statistics from the 2005-2006 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES). Their findings were presented in November 2010 at the American College of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology's annual meeting in Phoenix, Arizona.

Looking for Explanations

There are several possible reasons why the significant increase in antibodies seems related to allergies and age. One theory suggests that people today take more pains than ever to avoid getting sick, and in the process of avoiding germs, their immune systems end up reacting to harmless substances much more strongly than in the past. Another possible cause could be global warming, which has led to a higher prevalence of pollen and other seasonal triggers in the air. For many people, this may translate into longer allergy seasons and more severe symptoms that can continue even into their later years.

Treatment Matters with Allergies and Age

If you find yourself grappling with ongoing allergy symptoms, regardless of the cause, it's important to keep in mind that as you age, the way you treat allergies may need to change. For instance, if you're taking multiple medications for other health conditions, you'll need to be sure your allergy medicines won't interfere with them or cause dangerous side effects. You'll also need to talk to your doctor about any serious medical issues, such as cardiac problems, diabetes, or memory loss, to be sure any treatment regime you follow is safe for your situation and limitations.

And while you may not be able to escape allergies, you should still be able to effectively control your symptoms regardless of your age by avoiding your triggers and taking allergy medications.


Mathur, Sameer. "Allergy and Asthma in the Elderly." Seminars in Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine. 31(5)(2010):587-595. Web. 25 Jan. 2011.

"Health Day: Antibody Linked to Allergies on the Rise." Medline Plus. U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health, 15 Nov. 2010. Web, 23 Jan. 2011.

"Seniors and Asthma: Getting the Medication and Dosage Right." American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology. AAAAI, June 2007. Web, 24 Jan. 2011.