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Addressing Late-Onset Food Allergies in the Elderly

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Most people assume food allergies only occur in children, but adults can develop this disease as well. Seniors are at risk of food allergies because their immune systems grow weaker with age. Some experts estimate up to 10 percent of seniors have been diagnosed with food allergies. If your senior loved one has been diagnosed with late-onset food allergies, there are some things you can do to help him or her manage the symptoms. 

Get to the Doctor

If you suspect your loved one has a food allergy, take him or her to a doctor for testing. Many food allergies can be detected through blood tests and skin pricking. Some doctors may perform an oral food challenge, which means administering the concerning food to the senior while monitoring results. 

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Try a Trial Food Elimination Diet

Your loved one’s doctor may suggest avoiding the potential food allergen for two to four weeks, as part of a trial and error diet. If you suspect your loved one has a specific allergy, you can also do this test on your own. Within a month, all signs and symptoms should disappear. 

Know the Most Common Food Allergens for Seniors 

Over 90 percent of all food allergies result from cow’s milk, eggs, fish, peanuts, wheat, tree nuts, soy, and shellfish. If your loved one experiences a swollen throat, upset stomach, or other digestive issues after consuming any of these foods, eliminate the food from his or her diet. If your loved one has difficulty breathing, take him or her to a doctor immediately. 

Read Food Labels

Once your loved has been diagnosed with a food allergy, read food labels carefully so you can help him or her avoid those allergens. However, not all allergens are listed on the labels. Some products are processed in plants, which may contaminate them with other allergens. It is against the law for a company to conceal this information. If you have any questions, contact the manufacturer. 

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Create Alternative Recipes

If your loved one is allergic to a particular item, come up with alternatives. For example, your loved one can try almond milk if he or she becomes allergic to cow’s milk. If wheat or gluten is the problem, help your loved one learn how to work with other flour options like coconut, rice, and almond. 

Prepare Meals Yourself

For seniors who don’t prefer cooking or are unable to do so, managing a food allergy can be overwhelming. It may be time for you to help with meals. Invite your loved one to eat with you and your family regularly, or cook several meals in advance so he or she does not have to worry about food. 

Ensure Your Loved One Does Not Feel Left Out

Having a food allergy can make some seniors feel left out at barbecues, parties, and restaurants. When your loved one attends a social event, make sure he or she always has some non-allergen food to eat. Contact restaurants ahead of time to find which of their dishes do not contain the allergens.

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