Nearly 30 percent of the population experiences seasonal allergy attacks which cause symptoms like nasal congestion, headaches, sneezing or coughing. During an allergy flare-up, you may also feel drowsy and have a harder time focusing on activities throughout the day, which is often referred to as “brain fog”. Allergist, Dr. Andrey Leonov, explains the effect your allergies have on your sleep and energy level, and what you can do to minimize symptoms, including brain fog.
For many of us, environmental allergens like pollen, mold or dander trigger an allergic response, especially during peak seasons when their counts are at their highest. During an allergic reaction, inflammation often develops especially in your eyes, lungs, sinuses and throat. Inflammation can trigger other allergy symptoms including coughing, sneezing or headaches, and can prevent you from getting a good night’s rest. The combination of a lack of sleep and congestion often leads to allergy-induced fatigue. If inflammation develops in your ears, they may not be able to drain properly, leading to fluid build-up. Fluid in your middle ear can make you feel dizzy, similar to having your head underwater. The longer you experience allergy symptoms, the more tired you will become, making school, work and other daily activities increasingly difficult.
The first step to managing your allergies is to identify which allergen(s) affect you. Once you have determined the cause, an allergist can help you develop a treatment plan that will limit your exposure to the allergen(s) and alleviate your symptoms.
If you experience allergy-induced brain fog or other allergy symptoms, you can try:
Your allergist can help you to determine which medications, including antihistamines*, may be best for you. Antihistamine medications can help to combat feelings of fatigue by temporarily reducing the amount of swelling in your nasal cavity.
*Certain antihistamines can make you tired, so be sure to select one that is labeled as “non-drowsy”.
Allergy shots, also referred to as immunotherapy, are considered one of the most effective ways to treat chronic allergy symptoms. Allergy shots introduce small amounts of a particular allergen into your body, slowly increasing the dose over time. This helps to build-up your tolerance to the allergen safely over time, making you less reactive to the allergen and reduces the severity of your symptoms.
Nasal Sprays and Neti Pots:
In some cases, using a nasal spray or a Neti pot can provide symptom relief by clearing out your congested nasal passages and reducing the amount of swelling.
Taking a hot shower before going to bed will wash off any environmental pollutants you may have come into contact with throughout the day. The steam also opens up your nasal passages, which can help you get a more restful night’s sleep.
While it may be tempting to open up windows as the weather gets nicer, you may be letting allergen(s) into your home. Allergy-proof your home by keeping windows closed when allergen counts are high, especially first thing in the morning, as well as vacuuming and washing sheets and towels regularly.
Whether you’re experiencing sleep disturbance, increased swelling or a combination of the two, allergic brain fog is a real phenomenon. You can get symptom relief and reduce allergy-fatigue by working with an allergist to establish a treatment plan that’s best for you. To learn more about our team of board-certified Allergy, Asthma and Immunology physicians, visit our Allergy, Asthma & Immunology page.