Age-wise, I am in a sweet spot dubbed ‘the golden years’. The term was first coined in a 1959 ad for Sun City, Arizona, considered the first active adult retirement community. The phrase is supposed to conjure images of retirement, leisure time, relaxation, enjoyment of life - a stretch of time before the ailments and illnesses of old age prevail.
What I am learning as I march into my sunset years is that those ailments and illnesses don’t pop up one day, a message screaming, OK, gal, you’re now OLD. Rather those disorders creep up on you – maybe not you, but definitely on me. One day I feel fine, one day I AM fine, and the next day something is not quite right...
My latest issue is, according to my doctor, an allergy. To what I have no idea. I never had an allergy. Until now.
Suddenly I am fine and then my eyes tear and redden, my nose runs, I sneeze. Then the symptoms disappear. I tested to find out if the problem was my soap, makeup, shampoo...none of these variables made a difference. After months of this on-and-off scenario it was time for a professional opinion.
The diagnosis: I probably have an allergy to something (Eureka!). So I am trying an over-the-counter antihistamine, and if that doesn’t work will add a prescription med.
What is going on? Why am I turning into a weak-bodied specimen?
Apparently I am not alone. There has been a world-wide increase in allergies among folks over 50 in the past few decades. In fact, so many older people succumb to allergies that WHO, the World Health Organization, has classified the trend an ‘epidemic’ of the 21st century.
Reasons for the rise in allergies over the past few years include:
· Environmental transformations, such as climate change and pollution, contribute to increased susceptibility and lower body immunity.
· Mold and pollen are common respiratory-related allergy agents. Climate variations, habitat destruction and alterations result in increased cases of allergies among adults.
· The immune system and tissue structure changes as we age. A consequence can be heightened sensitivity to allergy-producing agents, such as foods and substances we breathe.
· Everyday life may contribute to allergies in the form of stress. Stress releases hormones and other molecules that lead to allergy symptoms. Although not a direct cause of allergies, stress can make an allergy worse.
All this information is interesting but not helpful to my situation. On doctor’s orders I am to keep a diary of my allergy episodes, in the hopes that eventually a commonality will be found (another Eureka moment!). Otherwise I will walk around forever wearing dark glasses as tears stream down my face and I bump into people and objects because my sight is impaired, while folks wonder – what is wrong with that woman?
To be continued, eventually, for better or worse...