Can Allergies Make You Tired? Medical Doctors Weigh In
Allergies can make us sniffle, sneeze and cough...but that exhaustion you feel? Here's what's happening, say doctors.
There’s no question that allergies can make you feel like you’re dragging yourself through the day—but in a culture that values toxic productivity, most of us don’t stop for allergies. If we’re not contagious…we can carry on, right?
“A 2018 systematic review indicated that loss of productivity at work was nearly 36% due to nasal allergy,” says David Morris, MD, Chief of Allergy and Immunology at Dayton Children’s Hospital. Dr. Morris also points out that absenteeism only occurred at a rate of 3.6%, demonstrating that many people suffer through the symptoms without missing their responsibilities.
Whether you’re powering through or taking a rest, here’s why allergies make you tired and how not to let them get you down this season.
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Why do allergies make you tired?
Being constantly congested can lead to headaches and fatigue—plus, allergies often interfere with sleep so you don’t get the rest you need. “Allergy medications can also make you drowsy, so it is a vicious cycle,” says Purvi Parikh, MD, FACP, FACAAI, adult and pediatric allergist and immunologist, professor at New York University School of Medicine, and national spokeswoman for the Allergy & Asthma Network.
“Many people get asthma symptoms from their allergies, and not breathing well can also make you tired,” Dr. Parikh says. “Asthma is an allergic reaction in the lungs often to the airborne allergens like pollen, mold, dust mites, pets…” If you know, you know: The list goes on, and allergy triggers are only increasing the past couple years.
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How do we know if we’re tired from allergies, or something else?
Fatigue is a sign that your body is fighting a bacterial or viral infection, and our sources suggest you need to rule that out before you know if the fatigue your feeling is a result of allergies. Allergies themselves don’t actually cause you to feel tired, as mentioned above, but the symptoms can lead to exhaustion.
Allergies can actually make you feel jittery—the opposite of tired. “Allergies themselves release histamine, which can make people feel more anxious, irritable or alert,” explains Jill Carnahan, MD, a functional medicine doctor in Colorado. Dr. Carnahan points out that a lot of allergy medicines make people feel tired, so it could be that…but this can also impact sleep, which will then make you feel tired.
It can be exhausting to experience itchy, swollen eyes, nasal congestion, sneezing, coughing, wheezing, chest tightness, skin rashes and sore throat, so other causes of your symptoms should be ruled out. If you find yourself suffering from allergies on a regular basis—either after exposure to animals, dust or mold—or seasonally, Dr. Parikh recommends seeing a board-certified allergist to confirm you have allergies (and/or asthma) and start an appropriate treatment regimen. “You may even be a candidate for allergen desensitization, which actually makes you less allergic over time,” Dr. Parikh says.
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What should we do if we’re tired from allergies?
“If sedation is from an allergy medicine, especially older versions that are known to cause sedation, changing to a 24-hour medication may help because they are less sedating,” says David Berger, MD, a board-certified pediatrician who also has a family clinic in Florida. Dr. Berger recommends stopping the allergy medicine for two days to determine if the medication might be causing the fatigue.
This one seems obvious, but if you’re tired you should rest! “A person may need to rest because they are not feeling well,” Dr. Berger says, “but resting will not fix the root cause of the issue.”
“Improving allergy symptoms with nasal medications will promote better sleep and better sleep will lead to less tired feelings,” Dr. Morris says. Dr. Carnahan notes that extra rest won’t make your allergies go away—but if you’re treating the symptoms and getting enough rest, that might make allergy season feel a little more manageable.
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- David Morris, MD, Chief of Allergy and Immunology at Dayton Children's Hospital
- J Allergy Clin Immunol Pract, "Impact of Rhinitis on Work Productivity: A Systematic Review"
- Purvi Parikh, MD, FACP, FACAAI, adult and pediatric allergist and immunologist, Professor at New York University School of Medicine, and National Spokeswoman for the Allergy & Asthma Network
- David Berger, MD, board-certified pediatrician and founder of Dr. David MD
- Jill Carnahan, MD, Functional Medicine Doctor and author of Unexpected.