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Allergies can cause many distressing and unpleasant symptoms, from headaches to runny nose, digestive upsets, and respiratory trouble. But can allergies make you tired and exhausted?
Yes, allergies can cause fatigue. You may also have trouble maintaining alertness, gathering thoughts, or even staying awake at work .
Have you ever wondered why allergies make you tired?
Here we will talk about how to fix allergy fatigue: why it happens, how to prevent it, and ways to regain your energy during allergy season. Keep reading!
Why do allergies make you tired?
There are quite a few reasons why allergies are wiping your energy levels. Let's take a closer look at them.
Your immune response is working hard
When you have allergies, your immune system goes into a battle. It is similar to how our body fights the flu or other viral infections, which can also leave you feeling drained.
During an allergic reaction, the body mistakenly identifies a harmless substance as if it was injurious. The immune system then begins to release chemicals to tackle these so-called "intruders". The allergy-fighting chemicals like histamine and antibodies (like immunoglobulin E or IgE) have been linked with fatigue, which is how allergies can make you tired.
You have breathing issues
Allergies irritate your nasal passages. They trigger uncomfortable symptoms like sneezing, watery eyes, and nasal congestion.
A stuffy nose or nasal congestion occurs when the blood vessels and the tissues in the nose become swollen with excess fluid, leading to a plugged feeling in the nose affecting your ability to breathe properly.
Allergies can also cause sinusitis, where the sinuses' tissue gets inflamed. These sinuses make the mucus drain out of the nose, filling it with air. Inflammation of the sinuses can also lead to infection, making it harder for the sinuses to keep the nose filled with air.
When you are having breathing issues, the cells in the body are not getting oxygen adequately. The reduced oxygen levels can interfere with your cognitive function and daytime mental efficiency. Inadequate oxygen levels also cause your body to work extra hard, which is how allergies can make you tired.
You have trouble sleeping
Allergies can cause or worsen sleep apnea.
If you have allergies, you will naturally breathe through your mouth because of nasal congestion, runny nose, and sneezing. While this may provide your lungs with the much-needed air, it can lead to or deteriorate an ongoing sleep apnea, therefore causing sleep deprivation which is how allergies can make you tired.
The allergic and inflammatory reaction can also cause your tonsils and adenoids to swell [8. These can not only dry out your sinuses they can also worsen or encourage sleep apnea.
Sleep apnea is a sleep disorder where breathing is interrupted during sleep. The airway blockage may interrupt sleep multiple times during the night, leading to excessive daytime sleepiness and fatigue.
People with allergies are also twice likely to suffer from insomnia as those without. Nasal congestion often worsens at night, leading to nighttime awakening. What's more, certain allergy medications can also interfere with sleep.
Your medication is making you drowsy
Sure, reaching out for over-the-counter anti-allergy medications (including antihistamines) may help ward off allergy symptoms. But unfortunately, certain kinds of antihistamines for allergies can make you tired, and not just at night.
Antihistamines block histamine receptors in the nose. These receptors are also present in the brain and help us stay alert. Anti-allergy medications like antihistamines not only block the histamine receptor in the nose but also block the ones in the brain, contributing to sleepiness.
Besides contributing to daytime drowsiness, antihistamines can also cause poor sleep quality and sleepwalking at night. The nighttime sleep you get from antihistamines may not do good to your brain the next morning, even if you discontinue its use during the day. All of this leads to the feeling of allergies making you tired.
4 ways to fight allergy fatigue
There are ways to manage fatigue and stay alert if you have allergies. Here are the top 4 ways to fix allergy fatigue
1. Find out what is causing your allergy
The first and the most crucial way to fight allergies is to find out which allergy is causing them and which allergies can make you tired.
Keep an allergy diary to log when your symptoms appear, which will help you track down your potential triggers.
You may also take a quick at-home allergy test. These test kits may, however, not be as reliable as a visit to your doctor.
Seeking help from your health care provider may be one of the best ways to find out what's causing your allergies. Your allergist, or doctors specializing in allergies, will ask you for a detailed history and do a thorough physical examination.
Your doctor may then proceed to several tests that help determine your allergy triggers. Some commonly performed tests are [11:
- Skin test (prick test and patch test)
- Provocation test
- Blood test
- Food challenge test and elimination diet (if you are suspected of having food allergies)
2. Avoid the trigger
Limiting your exposure to allergens will help reduce allergy symptoms and associated allergy fatigue. For instance, if you know you are allergic to pollen, staying indoors during the spring season will help you avoid the trigger. You can keep your doors and window shut, and opt for air-conditioning.
If it is a must to stay outdoors, limit your time outside or avoid the outdoors on high-exposure days. Bathing and changing your clothes once you are indoors may also help. If you have allergies to animal dander, consider removing them from your bedroom.
There are many ways to allergy-proof your home if you suffer from indoor allergies. Proper ventilation, HEPA air filters, regular cleaning, and dusting, leaving the shoes outside, and replacing old beddings can help avoid the triggers for allergies and how to decrease allergies from making you tired.
3. Take appropriate allergy medications
While over-the-counter anti-allergy medication (including antihistamines) may be a good way to tackle your allergies, they may also make you drowsy.
Older generations of antihistamines are notorious for their ability to make you groggy and tired. They are highly lipid-soluble and quickly cross the barriers in the brain to block histamine receptors.
Ask your allergist for medications that are least likely to make you drowsy.
4. Improve sleep quality
To get a restful and sound sleep at night and help reduce allergies from making you tired, you can use a combination of the following steps:
- Lifestyle measures such as avoiding caffeine and alcohol six hours before bedtime
- Regular physical exercise in the morning or early hours. Avoid exercise just before bed, which makes it difficult to fall asleep.
- Using air purifiers in your bedroom can be a great solution to improve air quality. This will reduce your symptoms of allergies, helping you sleep better at night.
- A salt and nasal water rinse may also help with allergy symptoms and promote better sleep.
- Showering before bed can help remove allergy-causing particles from your body and hair.
- Take appropriate anti-allergy medication.
- You can also supplement your nighttime allergy medication with nasal strips that help open the passages and help you sleep. Raising your bed a few inches higher will also ease your nasal congestion.
How to prevent allergy-related fatigue?
Fixing allergy-related fatigue requires the prevention and control of allergies. Some ways to prevent allergies from making you tired are:
- Reduce allergens in your house and particularly in the bedroom. Wash your sheets with hot water at least once a week.
- Dehydration can also contribute to fatigue. Drink at least 6-8 glasses of water per day.
- Maintain a healthy diet and reduce sugar intake. Taking short breaks throughout the day can help you stay alert.
- Immunotherapy is considered to be the most potent treatment option for symptoms of allergy. It is also effective in the prevention of allergies. It involves increasing doses of allergens so that the immune system becomes less sensitive to them. The body is likely to produce blocking antibodies that reduce the severity of symptoms when the allergen is encountered. The most common type of immunotherapy is allergy shots, where allergens are administered under the skin. Other ways are under the tongue (sublingual) or taken through the mouth.
The symptoms of allergies vary from person to person. While some people complain of runny noses, itchiness, and watery eyes, others struggle to stay alert and active. That's because allergies can make you tired and drowsy.
Several factors can cause allergy-related fatigue. Chronic inflammatory conditions like allergies have been linked with fatigue as the body is working in overdrive. Other contributing factors are trouble falling asleep or breathing issues that disrupt a peaceful night's sleep. Certain anti-allergy medications also have a reputation for making you tired and groggy.
Allergy fatigue can be eased by finding the cause of your allergy and avoiding them. If you are struggling with allergy fatigue and can't seem to get relief on your own, talk to your health care provider. They can help find the triggers for your allergy to give you the appropriate help required. Treating the symptoms of allergy can undoubtedly help fight the associated fatigue.