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Healthy Living

The Truth About Aging and Allergies

“Many seniors have multiple medical issues and take several medications. That puts them at risk for adverse reactions to medications or medication allergies,” says Dr. Chiang.

Medication allergies, or adverse drug reactions, are observed two to three times more frequently in seniors than in adult patients. Clinical research shows that the worst offending drugs are anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), blood thinners, blood pressure medications, immunosuppressive drugs and certain antibiotics such as penicillin, Bactrim and Ciproflaxin.

“The evaluation of a potential drug allergy is very similar to the evaluation for a seasonal allergy,” explains Dr. Chiang. “We use skin tests such as a prick or a patch test. If you’re having a medication allergy we can work with your primary care physician or specialist to address the issue.”

If you’re a seasonal allergy sufferer, Dr. Chiang says preventing or controlling your symptoms is key. That’s because the itchy, watery eyes and runny nose can cause an infection.

“We see sinus infections, ear infections and asthma more frequently in seniors who suffer seasonal allergies,” says Dr. Chiang. “It’s because their immune system is a little bit suppressed due to age or medication. About 60% of my asthma patients are suffering from asthma due to seasonal allergies”

The best thing you can do to protect yourself? Prevent the onset of seasonal allergy symptoms when possible.

“Try over-the-counter antihistamine allergy medications,” explains Dr. Chiang. “These include pills such as Allegra, Zyrtec, and Claritin, or nasal sprays such as Flonase, Nasacort or Afrin. You can pre-medicate yourself prior to going out for the day or visiting a home with pets. If you’re not getting relief, then you need to make an appointment with an allergist.”

An Allergist like Dr. Chiang can offer stronger medication such as prescription strength nasal sprays, eye drops and pills. However, most patients want to solve their allergy problem once and for all.

“Many patients don’t want to take daily medication so we offer immunotherapy to slowly desensitize your system,” says Dr. Chang. “Traditionally this consists of getting a shot that contains your allergens. We start with weekly shots, then once every two weeks, then every three weeks, etc. Treatment lasts anywhere from three to five years.”

There’s also a recent breakthrough that will make receiving immunotherapy more comfortable and convenient for people of all ages.

“In 2014 the FDA approved an oral immunotherapy,” says Dr. Chiang. “These pills have been used in Europe for a number of years. They are available by prescription to take once daily for the same time period, three to five years. It’s unclear if they work as well as shots, but they give patients another option for relief.”

Allergist Dean Chiang, M.D.’s office is located at 3440 Lomita Blvd. Suite 228 in Torrance. Dr. Chiang sees THIPA members. You can make an appointment by calling 310-326-3371.