It’s that time of year again—spring means leaves returning to trees and blooming flowers. Unfortunately for allergy sufferers, it also means the reemergence of pollen, weeds, mold spores, and other common seasonal allergens.
You’re probably familiar with common allergy symptoms like coughing, sneezing, and watery eyes, but can allergies make you tired, too?
The short answer is yes, although it varies from person to person. Some people may just feel a bit sleepier than usual in the afternoon, while others experience fatigue that’s so debilitating that it keeps them from being able to work or engage in everyday activities and hobbies.
Why do allergies make us tired, and is it possible to beat the fatigue? Florida Medical Clinic immunologist Dr. Daniel Reichmuth answers your questions about allergy fatigue and provides tips on how to alleviate your symptoms and start feeling more awake and alert.
Why do seasonal allergies make us tired?
Seasonal allergies can do more than just cause a runny nose or cough—when left untreated, they can lead to drowsiness and poor concentration, too.
Allergy fatigue is the result of your body working hard to fight off a foreign invader. It’s similar to the way your body fights a virus like the common cold or the flu, which can also leave you feeling drained.
When you have an allergic response to something like dust, pollen, or pet dander, your body also releases proteins called cytokines, which can cause inflammation in your nose. Chronic inflammation (inflammation that doesn’t go away on its own) has been linked to fatigue and depression.
Allergies can also indirectly cause you to feel tired during the day by disrupting your sleep at night. Common allergy symptoms like coughing, sneezing, and congestion can make it hard to get a good night’s rest, making it hard to stay focused the next day.
Treating seasonal allergy tiredness isn’t always simple, either. Common medications like Benadryl (diphenhydramine) often cause drowsiness as a side effect. Fortunately, there are ways to manage fatigue and stay alert during allergy season.
5 Ways to Fight Allergy Fatigue
1. Find out what you’re allergic to.
In order to treat your allergies, you have to know what you’re up against.
An allergy test can help identify substances that trigger allergic reactions in your body. These substances, known as allergens, can be things you breathe in, things you touch, or things you eat.
A skin prick allergy test involves exposing the skin on your arm or back to small amounts of allergens to then see what you react to. These tests are typically done in a single sitting, and you’ll get results right away.
A blood allergy test can also check for allergens and is useful if you take a medication that can interfere with results or if your doctor suspects you may have a severe allergic reaction to even a tiny amount of an allergen.
2. Avoid common allergy triggers.
Once you know what you’re allergic to, you can work to avoid certain environmental allergens. There are many ways to avoid or reduce your exposure to allergens.
- Vacuum often and keep your house clean. Regularly wipe down hard surfaces, vacuum carpets, and wash linens and clothes to remove common allergens like pet dander and dust mites. Change your air filter regularly, and consider investing in an air purifier.
- Control indoor mold. Mold grows in damp, humid environments. Keep humidity levels below 50% in your home, and use cleaners designed to eliminate mold in the bathroom, laundry room, and other damp areas.
- Don’t dry clothes outside. Hanging clothes and linens up outside attract airborne pollens and molds. After washing, dry clothes and linens immediately in a dryer.
- Wear gloves while you garden and a mask while you mow the lawn. Gardening and lawn mowing can expose you to many different mold spores, pollens, and weeds. Wearing gloves and a breathable mask can help reduce your exposure to these allergens.
- Stop smoking. Smoke is a very common allergy and asthma trigger. Stopping smoking or reducing your exposure to secondhand smoke can help improve your symptoms.
- Keep windows closed. Keeping windows closed can help reduce the number of outdoor allergens that get inside your home.
3. Take your allergy medication in the evening.
Antihistamines are a common and effective way to manage seasonal allergies, and modern allergy medicines (like cetirizine, which is found in Zyrtec) are less likely to cause drowsiness than older antihistamines. However, some people may still feel tired after taking an allergy pill, especially if they haven’t taken one in a while.
To help reduce drowsiness and feel more alert during the day, take your daily antihistamine in the evening rather than first thing in the morning.
Consistency is also key to reducing the drowsiness caused by antihistamines—the longer you take a daily allergy medication, the more easily your body will be able to tolerate those side effects.
Not all antihistamines are intended for daily use, so talk with your doctor before starting or changing any allergy medications to make sure it’s a good fit for you.
4. Consider allergy shots.
Allergy shots involve exposing your body to small amounts of an allergen to build up your immunity over time. These shots are formulated for your specific allergies, and some people find that getting shots regularly can reduce or even eliminate their symptoms.
However, there’s a lot to consider before pursuing allergy shots. Learn more about allergy shots and if they’re right for you.
5. See a doctor to rule out other causes of fatigue.
Sometimes, fatigue that you think might be caused by allergies may be caused by another condition, such as an iron deficiency, sleep apnea, or a chronic illness. There are many different causes of fatigue, so you should talk to your doctor about your concerns and find a solution together. They may recommend getting additional tests, like a scan or blood draw, to rule out other potential causes.
Make an Appointment with an Allergist
If you’re struggling to control seasonal allergy fatigue, it’s time to talk to a doctor. An allergy expert can help you identify what you’re allergic to and help you find the most effective ways to control your symptoms. To learn more, schedule an appointment today with Dr. Reichmuth at one of our offices in Land O’Lakes, Wiregrass, or Zephyrhills. Telemedicine visits are also available.
About Dr. Daniel Reichmuth, FAAAAI & FACAAI
Dr. Daniel Reichmuth is a board-certified immunologist at Florida Medical Clinic. A Perdue University graduate, he received his Doctor of Medicine degree from the Indiana School of Medicine and currently serves as a fellow of the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology (FAAAAI) and the American College of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology (FACAAI).
Dr. Reichmuth is an expert in all things allergy-related and is dedicated to helping patients find solutions that best fit their individual lifestyles. He specializes in treating allergies of all kinds, including food and drug allergies. He also treats allergy-related asthma, eczema, and hives.
Disclaimer: This blog is not intended to substitute professional medical advice. Always talk with your doctor before starting or stopping medications or treatments.