One out of every 5 Americans has some type of allergy, but allergies often go undiagnosed because people don’t always connect their symptoms with the underlying allergic disease. Most everyone knows that allergies cause sneezing, sniffling, and itchy eyes, but allergies are capable of causing a host of ailments that go well beyond the standard symptoms.
Here’s a look at health problems that may have their root in allergies.
- Fatigue. Many people with allergies complain that they always feel tired. This can occur for a few reasons. First, some doctors theorize that a body that is always trying to fight off allergens becomes worn down and sluggish over time. In addition, when allergic rhinitis affects the airways, it can make it difficult to breathe well. Labored breathing can keep people from falling into the kind of deep sleep at night that they need to feel energized the following day. Also, if people are taking a steady diet of allergy medications to control their symptoms, their sleep rhythms can be thrown off due to side effects.
- Head pain. The chemicals released into the body during an allergy attack can trigger inflammation, and this inflammation can lead to head pain. One way that this can occur is through inflamed sinuses. When the lining of the sinuses becomes inflamed, head pressure and pain result. Inflammation of the neck muscles can also contribute to headaches. In addition, some doctors believe that the blood vessels in the head can become inflamed and generate pain. When allergies are treated, head pain often abates.
- Chronic cough. There’s nothing worse than a cough that just won’t quit. It can be disruptive and embarrassing throughout the day and keep you from falling asleep at night. Many people fail to connect coughing with allergies, but there’s a strong connection. Allergies cause mucus to accumulate in the nose and drip down the back of the throat, triggering a cough. Allergic coughs can last for months and even years. Once the allergy is addressed, the mucus will go away and the irritating cough along with it.
- Asthma. Allergic inflammation of the airways can lead to wheezing and asthma. This condition can become frightening and land patients in the hospital when not controlled properly. Asthma inhalers can keep the symptoms of the disease in check, but they don’t get to the heart of the underlying allergic disease.
- Irritable bowel. Many patients who exhibit the symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome actually have food allergies. They may experience gas, diarrhea, vomiting, nausea, and cramps in reaction to various food proteins.
- Eosinophilic esophagitis. EoE is a relatively new ailment that is becoming more and more common. It is caused by a concentration of white blood cells in the esophagus. These cells, known as eosinophils, cause the esophagus to become chronically inflamed. EoE sufferers experience reflux, trouble swallowing, abdomen or chest pain, and food impaction (food getting stuck in the esophagus). Often, children with EoE may find eating so unpleasant that they refuse food, resulting in weight loss or failure to thrive.
- Hives and eczema. Though these ailments may sound like the domain of a dermatologist, they often have their root in allergy. Hives and eczema develop due to allergic inflammation of the skin. They can be unsightly, maddeningly itchy, and painful.
Allergies cause a far broader spectrum of symptoms than most people suspect. If you are suffering from health problems that you think may be triggered by allergies, see an allergy doctor or a family care physician who is specially trained to offer environmental or food allergy treatment. They can order an allergy test kit, assess the scope of your allergies, and recommend a treatment plan. If your allergies are significant, they may prescribe sublingual immunotherapy (allergy drops) or allergy shots to desensitize your immune system to allergens in the environment.