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It’s no secret that allergies make you feel terrible. Runny nose, itchy eyes, and wheezing aren’t appealing to anyone. But did you know allergies can also make you feel tired? Allergic reactions release chemicals into the body that trigger inflammation. As a result, some people feel sleepy or tired, much the same as they would if they were coming down with an illness.
Additionally, tiredness can be a secondary reaction to allergies. If sinus congestion or coughing disrupt your sleep, it’s easy to understand why you’d feel tired when you are suffering from allergies.
Exposure to allergens triggers your body to produce antibodies in the immune system. These antibodies, called immunoglobulin E, are located on your body’s mast cells. Mast cells are located in the gut, skin, and airways – which explains why allergic reactions produce the most prevalent symptoms in these areas.
Mast cells contain the chemical histamine. The body releases histamine when it comes into contact with an allergen. (Allergy medications are “antihistamines” because they block histamines.)
The combination of histamine, immunoglobulin E, and the resulting inflammatory response causes swelling, itching, and fatigue. Most people experience sneezing, coughing, congestion, and sleepiness when experiencing an allergic reaction.
Additionally, many allergy medications also trigger sleepiness. Decongestants containing pseudoephedrine or diphenhydramine are especially burdensome.
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 the specific allergens your body reacts to. You can identify the triggers you experience by carefully tracking your symptoms or by undergoing a skin or blood test administered by a medical professional. 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:
The following help you reduce your exposure to the above-listed allergens:
Allergy medications might also be effective for controlling your allergic reactions. However, some of these medications make you sleepy. Carefully check the ingredient list of OTC allergy medications and avoid those containing pseudoephedrine or diphenhydramine, both of which cause fatigue.
In some cases, your allergic reactions or the ensuing sleepiness is caused 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:
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.
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:
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.
At-home allergy tests also 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.
“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.