At long last, spring is in the air, the sun is out, and the flowers are starting to bloom. After that seemingly never-ending winter, what could be better? Well, for the millions of people who suffer from seasonal allergies, the aforementioned springtime air, flora and fauna aren’t quite as much of a delight.
In addition to miserable symptoms including congestion, sneezing, itching, watery eyes and respiratory problems, you may have noticed you’re way more tired than usual during allergy season — even when you don’t take an over-the-counter medication like Benadryl to alleviate your symptoms.
As it turns out, your allergies can be the culprit responsible for the fatigue as well. Dr. Tania Elliott, a board-certified allergist and internist, tells SheKnows that chemicals released by allergy cells can cause exhaustion. “They also cause buildup of fluid and inflammation in your sinuses, which can cause facial pressure, headaches and fatigue,” Elliott explains.
But the major reason allergies cause fatigue is fairly straightforward: Difficulty breathing leads to sleep disruptions and disturbed sleep. “This difficulty breathing, especially while lying down, is caused by tightened airways from congested nasal cavities — a direct result of the inflammatory reaction of allergen exposure,” Elliott says.
The congested nasal cavities that are responsible for these sleep disruptions can be caused by both outdoor and indoor allergies. “Believe it or not, many indoor allergens — such as dust mites, pet dander and mold — tend to settle in the bedroom,” Elliott says. (Yikes.)
Furthermore, dust mites frequently live in your bedding, so it’s no surprise that so many people with allergies wake up feeling completely unrested, exhausted and (of course) congested. If you have a dust mite allergy, Elliott recommends removing all the decorative pillows from your bed and washing your sheets on high heat weekly.
For allergy sufferers with carpets in their bedrooms, Elliott suggests using a HEPA vacuum weekly or getting rid of the carpeting altogether. “Remember, first things first when it comes to allergy treatment — identify and avoid your triggers,” she says.
If fatigue often accompanies your allergies, Elliott recommends seeking a form of nondrowsy allergy relief. She notes that it’s important to remember that not all over-the-counter medications are created equal, and there are varying side effects that require our close attention.
Elliott suggests nasal steroid sprays. “They act locally at the site of allergy symptoms — your nasal passages — and will minimize congestion, swelling [and] postnasal drip and help you breathe better,” she explains. “I prefer medicines that work locally vs. systemically, which is what happens when you take pills.” Just remember that nasal steroid sprays like Flonase take at least five days to take effect, so stick with the program in order to get yourself on a path to better sleep.
“Ultimately, by minimizing the allergens settling in the bedroom and being mindful of taking nondrowsy allergy medications, you will likely begin to experience a more restful night’s sleep,” Elliott says.
You may not be able to stop and smell the roses, but at least you won’t start the day feeling completely unrefreshed and exhausted. Allergy season is looking up at least a little bit, right?