Allergy and asthma medication use in home-dwelling U.S. older adults

Int Forum Allergy Rhinol. 2017 Feb;7(2):192-198. doi: 10.1002/alr.21856. Epub 2016 Oct 3.


Background: Little is known about the use of allergy and asthma medications in older adults. This study aimed to assess the prevalence of use of these medications in older adults and evaluate predictors of their use.

Methods: Cross-sectional study using data from the National Social Life, Health, and Aging Project (NSHAP), a nationally representative sample of community-dwelling, U.S. adults 57 to 85 years (n = 2976) collected in 2005-2006. We determined prevalence of medication use and used logistic regression to evaluate sociodemographic and health factors associated with their use.

Results: Overall prevalence of allergy medication usage was 8.4% (most commonly antihistamines), and prevalence of asthma medication usage was 8.0% (most commonly bronchodilators). Allergy medication use was significantly associated with history of asthma (odds ratio [OR] 2.37; 95% confidence interval [CI], 1.52 to 3.69), chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) (OR 2.35; 95% CI, 1.58 to 3.51), or nasal surgery (OR 1.97; 95% CI, 1.00 to 3.86). Older age was associated with decreased allergy medication use (per decade, OR 0.80; 95% CI, 0.66 to 0.98). Although increased education was associated with increased overall allergy medication use, it was associated with decreased use of allergy medications generally contraindicated in the elderly. In contrast, the only significant predictors of asthma medication use were history of asthma (OR 19.66; 95% CI, 3.18 to 121.70) or COPD (OR 4.25; 95% CI, 0.88 to 20.44).

Conclusion: Allergy and asthma medication use is prevalent among older adults and driven mostly by history of asthma or COPD. Additional sociodemographic factors predict allergy (but not asthma) medication use. Further studies are needed to evaluate efficacy of these drugs in the elderly.

Keywords: allergy; antihistamines; asthma; decongestants; medications; older adults; rhinitis; theophyllines; xanthine derivatives.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Drug Utilization / statistics & numerical data*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Hypersensitivity / drug therapy*
  • Hypersensitivity / epidemiology
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Nasal Surgical Procedures
  • Pulmonary Disease, Chronic Obstructive / drug therapy
  • Pulmonary Disease, Chronic Obstructive / epidemiology
  • United States / epidemiology