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Can Allergies Really Make You Tired? How To Manage Allergy Fatigue

Laura Tennant
6 Minutes
Published:
Updated:
October 27, 2020
November 21, 2020

Many people suffer from allergies, which is a term for an allergic reaction to pollen, pet dander, dust mites, mold, or other allergens.

Seasonal allergies, also known as hay fever, are a specific type of allergies caused by pollen in the environment at certain times of the year.

The symptoms of allergies include coughing, a runny nose, sneezing, and itchy eyes. They can make you miserable for days at a time. But can allergies make you tired, too?

Symptoms and causes of allergies

An allergic reaction is an immune response to a foreign material called an allergen. Not all people will experience an allergic reaction to all allergens. Some people are susceptible to allergies, while others can go through allergy season without so much as a sniffle.

When a person has seasonal allergies, they experience an allergic reaction to pollen in the environment at a specific time of year. 

Other triggers of allergies include pet dander (like dog hair or cat fur), dust mites, mold, or cockroaches. 

The symptoms of allergies include:

  • Nasal congestion (blocked nose)
  • Runny nose
  • Sneezing
  • Watery eyes
  • Itchy eyes, itchy throat
  • Wheezing 
  • Fatigue or tiredness

The link between allergies and tiredness

Allergies can cause tiredness, low energy, and brain fog in some people. It is common to feel a lack of energy when affected by allergies or hay fever. 

There are a few theories for why some people feel tired when they are experiencing allergies. Allergies may make the body tired through the immune response. They may also make it harder for a person to have restful sleep at night, contributing to daytime sleepiness. And finally, certain allergy medications may cause drowsiness as a side-effect.

People with allergies may feel tired and foggy for any of the above reasons. But regardless of the reason behind it, there are ways to combat allergy fatigue and regain your energy.

The best way to fight allergy fatigue is to manage your allergies well. This involves awareness of your triggers, avoidance of those triggers, and treating the symptoms if necessary. 


How do allergies cause fatigue?

There is not much consensus on what causes allergy fatigue, but there are several possible theories:

Strain on the body

Mounting an immune response can be taxing on the body. When the body detects an invader, it releases a number of different chemicals in order to defend the body against the threat. Fighting off a foe can be tiring, whether it is an allergen or a virus like when you are unwell. The idea here is that the fatigue is a side-effect of the immune response.

Worse sleep

Another theory argues that allergy fatigue is caused by poor sleep at night. A 1998 study found that treating allergy patients’ nasal congestion led to both better sleep and less fatigue during the day. The authors hypothesized that daytime sleepiness could be caused by disturbances at night due to allergy symptoms. In other words, people’s runny noses and congestion might cause them to wake up more often at night, and to struggle to stay asleep.

Side effects of medications

Some common allergy medications also cause drowsiness, which may explain some of the fatigue people with allergies experience. However, not all allergy sufferers use medication, and many newer allergy medications are non-drowsy. 

At the end of the day, it’s likely that all of these factors contribute to allergy fatigue. But regardless of what causes it, the best way to prevent it involves managing one’s allergies.


How to combat allergy fatigue 

The best way to treat fatigue associated with allergies is to get your allergies under control. 

The first step to managing your allergies is to identify what is causing them, for example, is it dust mites, or pollen? Knowing your triggers can help you make choices that avoid exposure, and to choose the best medication for your specific allergies.

Allergy tests

You can find out what is causing your allergies by taking an allergy test. There are a few types of allergy tests, including the skin prick test, and antibody tests. 

The skin prick test is usually administered by an allergist, and it involves pricking the skin and applying common allergens to different spots. The spots that become red or inflamed indicate an allergic reaction. 

Allergy antibody tests can be taken at home or ordered by a physician. These types of allergy tests evaluate the levels of antibodies in your blood for a variety of common allergens. Having antibodies implies an immune reaction to the allergen.


Lifestyle changes

Once you are aware of your allergy triggers, you can make lifestyle changes to avoid exposure to your particular allergens as much as possible. So if you are allergic to dust mites, you might vacuum more frequently and use an air filter in the bedroom. If you are allergic to pollen, you might avoid going outside on high pollen days, or in extreme cases, you might even move to a different climate. 


Medications

You can also take medications to control your allergy symptoms. By treating the symptoms, you may be able to get more restful sleep at night, therefore reducing the fatigue you are experiencing during the day. When you’re experiencing fatigue, the last thing you want is a medication that causes drowsiness, so it’s a good idea to do your research and speak to a healthcare provider before starting a new medication. 

Allergy medications can take many forms, including pills or liquids (antihistamines, decongestants, steroid medications), nasal sprays, eye drops, and even injections. Many common allergy medications are available over the counter, but some can only be prescribed by a doctor. 

Bottom line

Allergies can cause tiredness. If you are suffering with fatigue associated with your allergies, the best way to combat it is to get your allergies under control. It is always a good idea to speak with a healthcare provider, who can help you come up with a plan to manage your allergies and start feeling better.

There are many ways to manage your allergies, like being aware of your triggers, making choices to avoid exposure, and treating the symptoms with medication if necessary. If you can manage to reduce your allergies, chances are the fatigue, brain fog, and exhaustion that comes along with them will vanish too.

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Laura Tennant
Science & Medicine Writer

Laura Tennant is a freelance medical writer from Toronto. She has an Honours B.Sc. in Neuroscience from the University of Toronto. She loves using her writing to help others make better-informed choices about their health and lifestyle. When she’s not writing, she’s making music and finding reasons to laugh.