Do allergies make you tired? All you need to know about allergy fatigue

If you are one of those who experience allergies, you might have encountered some awkward situations. It may have been constant coughing in the movies or rashes on your skin immediately after eating certain foods. Or rather, you kept sneezing in a beautiful flower garden at a picnic. Allergies are not only embarrassing to handle but also a burden.

One in five Americans is diagnosed with allergies, making it the 6th leading cause of chronic illness in the U.S. Although many think allergies are very easy to handle, statistics prove otherwise. More than 50% of those with allergies say allergies do impact the quality of their life.

Allergies can manifest in many ways. One of the most common complaints of those suffering from allergies is, “I feel drained after an allergic reaction. Can allergies make you tired?” So, if you’re looking for an answer to that, this article has everything you need to know about allergy fatigue.

What are allergies?

can allergies make you tired

Allergy is a hyperactive response of the immune system. In some people, the immune system exaggeratedly reacts to allergens – often harmless foreign substances – as a misguided defense mechanism.

Some commonly known allergens include:

  • Dust mites
  • Pollen and grass
  • Insect bites or stings – Honeybees, wasps
  • Food – eggs, chicken, seafood, milk, peanuts, eggplant
  • Drugs – Penicillin, Aspirin, Ibuprofen, Sulfonamides

What happens during an allergic reaction?

When your immune cells encounter an allergen, they produce a type of antibody called gE antibodies. These antibodies activate the mast cells – a type of white blood cell – to release histamines. Histamines are the mediators of an allergic reaction that cause inflammation.

This exaggerated immune response in allergies brings about many cellular and chemical changes in the body that result in various symptoms.

Can allergies make you tired?

Yes, allergies can make you tired. This is called allergy fatigue. All the allergy symptoms can make you very tired and less focused.

Allergy fatigue

Allergy fatigue is when you feel tired all day while you are experiencing allergic reactions. There are many reasons why allergies make you feel tired. But, they all trace back to the main villain in your story – the overactive immune system.

Reasons for allergy fatigue are:

Lack of sleep

All those symptoms you face during allergies can lead to poor quality sleep. Nasal congestion, headache, cough, etc., can make your nights difficult by intervening in your sleep cycle. We all know what they say, ‘sleep is the golden chain that binds health and our bodies.’ Lack of sleep causes fatigue.

Overworked immune system

Most of the allergens we encounter on a day-to-day basis are from our environment. When your body recognizes these familiar allergens, the immune system almost immediately reacts to them by releasing massive amounts of histamine. This process happens very often that the immune system gets overworked, leading to fatigue.

Related: Does Stelara Cause Weight Gain While Suppressing the Immune?

Allergy medicines

Most of the time, during allergies, we tend to take antihistamine drugs such as Diphenhydramine and Cetirizine. But, you should know that many of these antihistamines make you drowsy and add to your fatigue.

Sometimes it’s the allergy medication that makes you ask can allergies make you tired.

Brain fog

Sometimes when you are experiencing an episode of an allergic reaction, you tend to go into a state of brain fog. It is the state where your mental capacity to focus and analyze becomes dull, along with drowsiness and imbalance lasting a few hours to days. Brain fog usually accompanies fatigue in allergy.

Symptoms of allergy

Allergies don’t just make you sneeze or cough. They cause a variety of symptoms that range from mildly uncomfortable ones to sometimes life-threatening too.

The common symptoms of allergies include:

  • Runny nose
  • Nasal congestion
  • Sneezing
  • Postnasal drip
  • Watery eyes
  • Cough
  • Rashes
  • Itching
  • Headache
  • Fatigue or feeling tired all-day
  • Swelling of lips, face, etc.
  • Chest discomfort
  • Shortness of breath
  • Anaphylaxis

Diagnosis of allergies

The diagnosis of allergies is based on medical history, physical examination, and various allergy tests. The most common types of allergy tests include:

Skin test

Tiny quantities of various allergens are injected into the dermal layer of the skin, usually of the forearm, to see if the area swells up within 15-20 minutes, indicating an allergy.

Patch test

A small amount of possible allergen is placed on the skin with a bandage cover for 24 hours to see if a rash develops, indicating an allergy.

Challenge test

A minimal amount of allergen is usually taken by mouth under the supervision of a doctor due to the risk of anaphylaxis.

Elimination diet

Stop eating foods that might be causing allergies and see if there is any improvement indicating an allergy. A change in diet can positively impact your query of can allergies make you tired.

Blood test

A small blood sample is taken to analyze the levels of eosinophils and IgE antibodies that are usually elevated in allergies.

Treatment for allergies

There is no definitive treatment for allergy. It is a condition that requires lifelong management. Treatment is only symptomatic and alleviates the discomfort caused.

can allergies make you tired

The common medicines used for allergies include:

Oral antihistamines

Nasal decongestants

Combination medicines

  • Fexofenadine-pseudoephedrine
  • Loratidine-pseudoephedrine

Prevention of allergies

There is no absolute prevention of allergies. It is advisable to avoid the known allergens as much as possible. The evolution of science and extensive research has brought us allergy shots.

Allergy-shots

An allergy shot is a common name for allergen immunotherapy, also known as desensitization. Its mechanism of action is to induce tolerance to allergens by reducing the tendency to produce IgE antibodies.

This is done by injecting tiny amounts of allergens into your body regularly, which over time reduces the immune response and symptoms.

Side effects

Although mild side effects like swelling similar to a mosquito bite and itching at the injection site are common, serious medical symptoms like difficulty breathing, chest tightness, and anaphylaxis can occur.

It is recommended to stay in the clinic under medical supervision for at least 30 minutes after taking the allergy shots. This is to monitor for any side effects.

When to seek immediate medical attention

During an allergic reaction, if you have any severe discomfort or symptoms such as chest tightness, shortness of breath, and light-headedness that hint at anaphylaxis, seek medical care urgently.

Anaphylactic shock

Anaphylactic shock is a severe condition caused by allergies. It is a state of fast and shallow breathing with wheezing, confusion, anxiety, rapid heartbeat, light-headedness, etc.

It can occur within a few seconds to minutes, and if not treated as an emergency, it can lead to death. Please rush for medical aid.

What should you do during anaphylactic shock?

If you or someone else is showing symptoms of anaphylactic shock, follow these life-saving measures:

  • Eliminate the allergen or transfer from the site.
  • Ask for help nearby or call emergency hotlines like 911.
  • Lie in the supine position and elevate your legs to ease breathing until help arrives.
  • Rush to the nearest medical center to get an intramuscular dose of epinephrine to reduce the symptoms of anaphylaxis.
  • Provide oxygen supplementation and IV fluids.

FAQ

Can allergies cause fatigue?

Yes, allergies can cause tiredness, also called ‘allergy fatigue.’ This is due to an overworked immune system causing many uncomfortable symptoms that interrupt your sleep. Lack of sleep and usage of allergy medication such as diphenhydramine can cause brain fog and fatigue. This causes slower brain functioning and a lack of focus.

What are the symptoms of allergy?

Luckily, most of the symptoms are only mild and trivial. But, in some people, these are a burden, thanks to their hyperactive immune system.

Allergies can cause symptoms like a runny nose, nasal congestion, sneezing, watery eyes, cough, rashes, itching, headache, fatigue, swelling of face, lips, and eyes, chest discomfort, shortness of breath, light-headedness, etc.

Severe symptoms can indicate a life-threatening consequence like anaphylaxis, further leading to respiratory and cardiac failure and imminent death.

What are seasonal allergies?

Seasonal allergies, commonly called ‘hay fever,’ are allergic reactions to pollen, grass, and other environmental allergens that prevail in high amounts during a particular period in a year.

The incidence of seasonal allergies peaks from May to July, when most flowering plants release pollen and dandelions.

The hay fever symptoms are similar to usual allergic rhinitis, such as a runny nose, watery eyes, sneezing, etc. Even seasonal allergies can cause fatigue.

What is the allergy test?

There are several allergy tests like the skin test, challenge test, blood test, etc. Although the method might seem different, they all can effectively diagnose if you have an allergy.

The most common allergy test is the skin test, where small amounts of allergens are injected into the skin of the forearm to check for allergic reactions. If you test allergic to a particular allergen, discuss your tests with your physician to layout options on management.

What are the medicines for allergies?

There are many available medicines for allergy-like antihistamines, nasal decongestants, and other combination drugs. Antihistamines are a common type of medicine used to treat the symptoms of allergy. Many of these are sold over the counter (OTC) without a need for a prescription.

When you are asking can allergies make you tired, the answer is antihistamine medications can do it. The medicines include:

  • Cetirizine – the most commonly used allergy medicine available under the brand names Zyrtec, Aller-Tec, etc.
  • Brompheniramine – Dimetane, etc.
  • Fexofenadine – Allegra, etc.
  • Diphenhydramine – commonly known by the brand name Benadryl

Why do I feel drowsy after taking allergy medication?

Most allergy medications are antihistamines, which fight against histamines by blocking the H1 histamine receptors.  These receptors are present in your body peripherally and in the central nervous system.

Usually, some of these older antihistamines can cross the blood-brain barrier and reach the brain to block the H1 receptors there, producing a sedative effect. The newer antihistamines do not cause much sedation.

Can allergies be cured?

Sadly, allergies do not have a cure. But, on a positive note, you can prevent most of the allergy symptoms by identifying and avoiding the cause of the allergy. A healthy lifestyle can always help you keep away from allergens.

Taking allergy medication can aid in suppressing the allergic episode but can also make you drowsy. Discuss your treatment options with your doctors before self-medicating.

Conclusion

Allergies can be caused by various allergens like pollen, dust, mites, insect stings, etc. They cause mild symptoms like cough, runny nose, nasal congestion, and fatigue. Although many are benign, allergy fatigue can be a burden on our functioning. And you will end up asking, “can allergies make you tired.”

Fatigue in allergy is due to an overworked immune system and lack of sleep caused by your symptoms. Sleep well, eat healthy food, avoid allergens, and try allergy shots to fight allergy fatigue. Use the new generation allergy medicines to experience less fatigue.

If nothing works for you, try visiting your doctor for more personalized treatment. Unlike many diseases, allergy is not curable but is manageable.

Dr. Swathi Kilari

Hello there! This is Dr. Swathi Kilari here, a writer in progress. I am a graduate of Cebu Doctors' University from the Philippines and am currently registered to practice in India. I write now and then to share my knowledge and experience about healthcare. I am happy to help you make wise choices to lead a healthy life. Healthcare and teaching are two of my passions. I am a food enthusiast, home baker, and cook. If I am not doing any of these, I am probably sleeping.

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