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Can Allergies Make You Tired?

Updated on August 5, 2021
Medically Reviewed by
Dr. Dhingra
Written by
Joel
8 sources cited
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The quick and short answer to this is: Yes, allergies make you tired

You may not notice it, but allergies can lead to serious fatigue. This is in addition to all the other unpleasant symptoms of an allergy attack. They can leave your body depleted of energy, causing you to feel constantly tired and sluggish.

Allergies interfere with sleep, preventing you from getting a good night's rest. As a result, you feel hazy and exhausted the next day. 

Allergy fatigue, as it is called, can seriously affect your quality of life.

What Causes Tiredness When You Have Allergies?

The tiredness that you feel when you have allergies is because a lot of things happen in the body when it senses an allergen or an irritant. Allergy fatigue is a product of all of these body processes and responses. 

Here are some factors that lead to allergy fatigue:

Overworked Immune System

The body considers allergens as threats. As soon as the body senses these threats, the immune system kicks off by releasing chemicals called histamines to fight off the allergens. When you are constantly exposed to irritants and allergens, your immune system has to work continuously to release the needed chemicals. An overworked immune system is a weak immune system. As a result, you feel tired and more prone to getting sick.

The problem with histamines is that they are responsible for causing irritation and inflammation that brings about unpleasant allergy symptoms. 

Lack of Sleep

The release of histamine brings about a host of allergy-related symptoms like sneezing, cough, runny nose, itching, and stuffy nose. These symptoms cause difficulty in falling asleep and may also interrupt sleep. As a result, you don't get much sleep at night and end up feeling groggy and tired the next day.

People with sleep apnea and those with snoring problems will experience worsening of their symptoms. A stuffy nose may block or restrict the airways, which causes poor breathing. The lack of oxygen to essential body organs like the lungs and the heart will interrupt sleep. This leads to a restless, sleepless night, the effects of which are apparent the following day.

Congestion

Nasal congestion - as in a swollen, stuffy nose - can cause "brain fog." A person experiencing brain fog has difficulty in thinking clearly, which causes a tired, hazy feeling. Brain fog is brought about by increasing pressure in your sinus and nasal passages. 

The key to treating congestion is in treating the root cause of this issue.

Allergy Medications

Allergy medications, or antihistamines, are given to help relieve allergy symptoms. However, some allergy medicines can leave you feeling tired and drowsy. 

Antihistamines such as chlorphenamine, hydroxyzine, and promethazine can make you feel sleepy. Newer, second-generation antihistamines are formulated to be non-drowsy. These include cetirizine, fexofenadine, and loratadine. 

Additionally, check the ingredient list of over-the-counter allergy medications. Avoid those containing pseudoephedrine or diphenhydramine, both of which cause fatigue. If you're unsure about a certain anti-allergy medication, consult with your doctor.

How Do I Prevent Allergy Fatigue?

There are several ways to reduce the fatigue associated with allergies. One of the best ways is to reduce your body's response to allergens and avoid taking medications that cause fatigue. Reducing exposure also keeps you from feeling tired due to your body's natural response.

Start by identifying what type of allergy you have and the specific allergens your body reacts to. For example, seasonal allergies, also known as seasonal allergic rhinitis and “hay fever,” are caused by outdoor molds. 

You can identify the triggers by carefully tracking your symptoms or by undergoing a skin or blood test. Once you know what causes you to have an allergic reaction, you can limit your exposure to the allergen as much as possible. Common allergens include:     

  • Animal dander
  • Pollen
  • Dust mites
  • Mold
  • Cigarette smoke

 The following measures will help you reduce your exposure to the above-listed allergens:

  • Dust and clean your living and working spaces daily
  • Wash bedding weekly
  • Add dust mite covers to your bed
  • Keep bathrooms dry and well-ventilated
  • Vacuum daily
  • Keep pets off beds and other furniture
  • Open windows as often as possible except during high-pollen periods
  • Cool your home with air conditioning during high-pollen periods
  • Brush and bathe pets regularly
  • Keep track of outdoor pollen counts
  • Wear gloves and a mask when gardening
  • Stop smoking and/or avoid exposing yourself to secondhand smoke

At-home allergy tests will help you identify your allergies. One of the most effective at-home allergy testing options is the EverlyWell Test. It provides accurate information you can discuss with your healthcare provider and is a great option for people struggling to figure out what is causing their symptoms.

Using a blood sample from a finger prick, the EverlyWell Indoor & Outdoor Allergy Test will check for your response to allergens found outside and inside the home. These include pet dander, dust mites, grasses, trees, pollen, mold, and more. It measures IgE reactivity to 40 common allergens.

Do I Need to See a Doctor?

In some cases, your allergic reactions or the ensuing sleepiness will prompt you to seek medical attention. Allergic reactions can be dangerous, so it's important to understand what you're dealing with. A stuffy nose usually isn't serious, but other symptoms might be an indication of anaphylaxis, a potentially fatal allergic reaction.

Symptoms of anaphylaxis include:

  • Swollen throat
  • Wheezing
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Hives
  • Stomach cramping
  • Vomiting
  • Fainting

It's also important to note whether or not you're able to relieve your symptoms with allergy treatment. Fatigue could be a symptom of a serious medical condition if you take non-drowsy allergy medication that relieves all of your symptoms except for sleepiness.

How is Allergy Fatigue Treated?

There are various treatment options when it comes to the management of allergy fatigue. Talk to an experienced ENT (eye, nose, and throat) doctor who can help you decide. You must choose what works best for your lifestyle, allergy, and body. Here are some of them:

Medications

Consider taking over-the-counter antihistamines or decongestants. These will help reduce nasal congestion and swelling. Relief from these symptoms can help you sleep better at night and feel less tired during the daytime. 

However, be careful about the type of antihistamine that you take. Some antihistamines cause drowsiness. Avoid chlorphenamine, hydroxyzine, and promethazine. Instead, go for cetirizine, fexofenadine, and loratadine.

Long-term Immunotherapy Treatments

For long-term relief from allergy symptoms, allergy drops and allergy shots are recommended. With these, you may no longer have to take allergy medications. 

Why Treat Allergy-Related Fatigue?

Some people are so happy to experience relief from their primary allergy symptoms they might ignore the fatigue they are experiencing. However, fatigue causes a variety of problems, including:

  • Irritability
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Difficulty making decisions
  • Memory problems
  • Reduced coordination
  • Increased risk of injury
  • Poor performance at work or school

 Although you might feel better overall because your severe respiratory and sinus symptoms are treated, it's still important to consider how much fatigue can affect you.

If allergies are making you tired, the most important thing you can do to deal with the issue is to identify what allergen causes your reaction. Doing so gives you a starting point for dealing with the problem and reducing your exposure to that particular allergen.

Speaking to a doctor or allergist is the fastest way to identify your allergies. Still, it's also a good idea to track your symptoms and consider where you are and what you're doing when you experience a reaction.

Resources

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“Allergies - Symptoms and Causes.” Mayo Clinic, 2018, www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/allergies/symptoms-causes/syc-20351497.

“Allergies: Symptoms, Treatment & More.” Cleveland Clinic, my.clevelandclinic.org/health/diseases/8610-allergy-overview.

"Signs of Allergies." American College of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology. https://acaai.org/allergies/allergy-symptoms/fatigue.

"Histamine: The Stuff Allergies are Made of." Medline Plus. https://medlineplus.gov/medlineplus-videos/histamine-the-stuff-allergies-are-made-of/.

"Allergies Got You Fuzzy-Headed? Here's Why + How to Cope." Cleveland Clinic. https://health.clevelandclinic.org/allergies-got-you-fuzzy-headed-heres-why-how-to-cope/.

"Antihistamines." NHS. https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/antihistamines/.

"Types of Allergies." Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America. https://www.aafa.org/types-of-allergies/.

Reber, L. et al, "The Pathophysiology of Anaphylaxis." The Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5657389/.

Dr. Dhingra
Dr. Harshi Dhingra
Medical Reviewer
Dr Harshi Dhingra is a licensed medical doctor with a specialization in Pathology. Dr. Dhingra has of over a decade in diagnostic, clinical, research and teaching work, including managing all sections of Pathology laboratory including histopathology, cytology, hematology and clinical Pathology.
Joel
Content Contributor
Joel is a writer with a passion for the science of DNA and the power of its manipulation.
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