Most people know that allergies cause sneezing and a runny nose, but they can cause a host of other symptoms, too, including fatigue. In fact, as many allergists will tell you, fatigue is one of the symptoms that allergy sufferers are most likely to complain about.
So why do allergies make us tired? Here are a few possible reasons:
- Respiratory symptoms: Allergy typically manifests through symptoms that affect the airways. Allergies may cause nasal congestion that makes it hard to breathe. When you can’t breathe clearly, it’s hard to sleep well at night. If you have an allergy-induced cough, you might find yourself hacking when you lay down to go to sleep. Respiratory problems triggered by allergies can make for restless nights followed by groggy days.
- Allergy medications: While allergy drugs can help alleviate symptoms, they can also throw off the body’s sleep rhythms. Many allergy mediations contain diphenhydramine, which can subdue chemicals such as histamine that your body releases in the course of an allergy attack. Diphenhydramine makes you very sleepy, however. Other allergy drugs contain pseudoephedrine, which may induce insomnia. The human body prefers established sleep patterns. When sleep is interrupted with allergy medications, the body may have a hard time getting back on track.
- Overworked immune system: Many experts argue that allergies make the body work overtime, “battling” molds, pollens, and other allergens. When your body is constantly on the offensive, it may have less energy for day to day tasks.
If allergies are wearing you out, start by figuring out what you are allergic to. Using an environmental or food allergy test kit, your doctor can gauge your reaction to hundreds of allergens, including pollen, dust, mold, pet dander, and food proteins. Your test regimen may involve a blood test or a series of skin pricks that penetrate the top layers of the skin.
If you react significantly to allergens, talk to your doctor about an allergy treatment program. If your symptoms are mild, your doctor may be able to prescribe medications that will not affect your sleep schedule. If your symptoms are severe or if they stretch out over more than a few months per year, you may be a candidate for allergy immunotherapy.
Allergy immunotherapy can be prescribed as under-the-tongue drops (sublingual immunotherapy) or as shots. Shots are administered at the doctor’s office a couple of times per week, but allergy drops are safer than shots so they can be dosed at home.