Why do seniors have runny noses?

As we age, our bodies undergo several changes that can be quite alarming. For seniors, one of the most unexpected changes they experience is a runny nose. Yep, you read that right! But why exactly is this happening? Let’s delve deeper into the science behind seniors’ sniffles and find out.

The Anatomy of Nasal Secretions

Before getting into why seniors’ noses are runnier than usual, let’s first understand what causes mucus or nasal secretions to form in the first place it’s not as gross as it sounds!

The mucous membrane lining the inside of your nose produces mucus to help moisturize and protect your sinuses from dirt and germs. It also helps warm up air before entering your lungs talk about multitasking! However, when allergens or irritants enter your nasal cavity (e.g., dust particles), this excess mucus production increases resulting in a runny nose.

Senior Moments

Now that we’ve covered some basics about how our noses work let’s focus on what happens as we age:

Hormonal Changes

As we get older, hormonal changes occur – this includes oestrogen for women who play key roles in regulating immune responses throughout our body including those affecting our respiratory tracts [1][2]. An imbalance could cause inflammation leading to increased nasal discharge – That being said; I’m too young for hormone replacement therapy!

Age-related medical conditions

Some common ailments among Seniors such as Arthritis and Parkinsons disease can slow down motor functions which include coughing/sneezing reflexes often needed to clear phlegm from bronchial tubes or clogged nostrils causing an increase in dripping snot despite little irritation within their passage way [3].

Moreover, certain medications prescribed by doctors such as antihypertensives increase blood flow into nasal vessels making it easy for blood plasma to leak through walls of capillary networks resulting in flooding of liquids around sinuses. Caution: Don’t reduce your prescribed medication dosage without consulting a health professional.

Weakened Immune System

Our immune system is responsible for protecting us against infections and diseases a crucial shield which usually weakens as we age [4][5]. This means that, seniors are more susceptible to viral infections such as the common cold or flu that cause runny noses.

Moreover, some underlying conditions such as Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) amongst others leave you vulnerable too!

How Are Runny Noses Treated in Seniors?

There is no one-size-fits-all treatment when it comes to managing runny noses among seniors. However, here are some remedies and tips:

  1. Stay Hydrated
    Seniors should encourage themselves always to stay hydrated with water/juice – Dehydration makes mucus thicker hence may exacerbate the situation!

2.Humidifier
Adding humidity via devices known humidifiers into rooms can help manage throat dryness and clear blocked nose ways [6].

  1. Folate-Rich meals
    Funnily enough..not funny HAHA but including foods rich in folate helps boost immunity by eradicating pathogens before causing an infection diagnosed within respiratory tracts related illnesses causing sneezing or sniffling at old age [7]

Folate-rich meals

                                                           Image Source: Canva

4 Medicated Nasal Sprays / Antihistamines
It’s important not to self medicate!! Doctors should be consulted on suitable prescriptions aiding abnormal growths suppression within nasal cavities contributing clogging/upset of balance.

  1. Smoothies
    Blending fruit mixes/packs of vitamins into drinks/ smoothies goes a long way to help with moisture retention – Citrus fruits are particularly useful with their numerous health benefits besides keeping senor snot normal [8].

  2. Chewing gum, Garlic and Ginger- supplements
    These help to manage hygiene around nostrils wards off pathogens causing infections on the skin or inhaled deep down when breathed, While ginger helps combat excess mucus production [9][10][11].

Conclusion

As much as running noses in seniors might seem like an inconvenience; we cannot ignore its underlying causes and instead embrace either preventive methods discussed above or specific therapy recommended by professionals through appointment booking rather than self diagnosis while prioritizing good hygiene for wellbeing since our bodies change with time – it’s possible even monsters have runny noses too! 🤪

References:

  1. Pietraszek-Stokłosa J., Więch P., Brzezińska-Błaszczyk E. et al.
    “Age-related changes of sex hormone levels and oestrogen receptor expression in rat nasal mucosa.” Journal of Endocrinology (2013)

2.Riedel F., Girschick M.; Godoy O.R.et al “Effects of estrogens on immune cells and inflammation” Lung Inflammation (2007);

3.Davis MD, Walsh TJ, Larsson E-K et el
“Management strategies for respiratory problems in Parkinson’s disease”
Am J Manag Care(2021)

4.Larbi A., Goldeck D.; Pawelec G.;
Aging microenvironments affect immunesystem development & function
Immunol Aging(2008);

5.Pawelec G.,
Hallmarks Of Human ‘ Immunosenescence’: Adapted Immune Responses Or Dysregulation?
Immunol Today. (1998);

6.Bellestra C., Gamboa P.M.: Humidifier
Use and Indoor Environmental Modifications in the Treatment of COPD – Mayo Clinic Proceedings (2020)

7.Pietrofesa R.A, Velalopoulou A.; Christofidou-Solomidou M.;
Ascorbate/Folate-Mediated Co-Delivery of Vitamin C and Folic Acid Promotes Immune System Health – Focus on COPD Management" Nutrients.(2019)

8.Roohani N., Hurrell R., Kelishadi R
“Overview of folate intake status & food fortification with folic acid in the world” Public Health Nutrition(2013)

9.Bushdid C, Magnasco MO, Vosshall LB et al.
Functional Analyses Of The Human Olfactory Receptor As A Model For Studying G Protein-coupled Receptors Scientific Reports(2014).

10.Gunjakar JL, Sharma D1.; Khose RD “Chew gum to prevent common cold: a pilot placebo-controlled study” J Clin Diagn Res(2015)

11.Al-Naqeb G.
Garlic supplementation modulates Muc5ac secretion by gastric cancer cells via antagonism against eicosanoids.” Ethnopharmacology
263 (2022): 113206.

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