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Can Seniors Develop Food Allergies?

January 23rd, 2018

By: Jack Nicol

bigstock-Allergies-written-in-search-ba-97675277.jpgTanya hosted a dinner party at her home for her family members. They played games, ate snacks, and enjoyed each other’s company. Everyone brought a favorite treat. When Tanya brought out a tray of shrimp cocktail, her 78-year-old mother, Sharon, was thrilled. She remembered eating shrimp cocktail with her late husband when they went to dinner parties, and she hadn’t had it in years. Sharon happily accepted one of the cocktails and began eating. As she ate, Sharon’s throat began to itch and her eyes got puffy. Tanya ended up driving her to the emergency room where she was informed that Sharon was allergic to shellfish.

Although most people think of food allergies as being a problem that people know about from the time they are children, they can actually suddenly occur when a person is an adult.

Recognizing Food Allergy Symptoms

Food allergies can range from mild, irritating symptoms to very serious, even life threatening, ones. Symptoms of a food allergy can start within minutes of eating the food or up to two hours afterward. Symptoms of a food allergy include:

  • Swollen lips, face, throat, or tongue. 
  • Swelling in other parts of the body.
  • Wheezing, stuffy nose, or difficulty breathing.
  • Hives or itching.
  • Digestive symptoms, like abdominal pain, vomiting, or diarrhea.
  • Feeling dizzy or lightheaded.
  • A severe reaction can cause anaphylaxis.

The symptoms of anaphylaxis are:

  • A fast pulse.
  • Constricted airways.
  • Swelling in the throat, which may feel like there is a lump in the throat that makes it hard to breathe.
  • Shock and a drop in blood pressure.
  • Dizziness or unconsciousness.

When a senior is diagnosed with a food allergy, dealing with the allergy might be as simple as avoiding the food. In Sharon’s case, she simply stopped eating shellfish. However, when the allergen is found in a lot of foods or is used in factories where foods are processed, such as nuts, avoiding it can be more complicated. In such cases, it is necessary to read food labels and ask questions before eating. For an older adult, it may be hard to read labels because of vision loss. Or, they may have cognitive issues that affect their ability to make good judgements about food. 

If your older adult family member has been diagnosed with a food allergy and needs assistance, an elderly care provider can help. An elderly care provider can go shopping with the person and help them read labels. The elderly care provider can also prepare meals that are free from the allergen. Elderly care providers can also ask the appropriate questions for the senior when they eat at a restaurant.

Sources

https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/food-allergy/expert-answers/food-allergy/faq-20058483

https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/food-allergy/symptoms-causes/syc-20355095

If you or an aging loved one are considering elderly care in North Palm Beach, FL, contact the caring staff at BrightStar Care of Jupiter. Call today (561) 741-1200.