Allergies are irritating regardless of when they strike, but the symptoms can be particularly disruptive when you experience them at nighttime. Sneezing, coughing, and itchiness make it very difficult to sleep and will consequently harm your health and happiness. And it’s an issue that an estimated 50 million Americans face.
So, why do your allergies get worse at night and what can be done about the situation? Here’s all you need to know.
Do allergies get worse at night?
Experts state that allergic rhinitis may impact up to 30% of adults in the U.S. while it also affects millions of children. For anyone who experiences those allergies, or any other allergies, it is likely that allergies feel worse at night. It’s not just anecdotal, either. Allergies do get worse at night and it’s an issue experienced by most sufferers.
What causes allergy symptoms to feel worse at night?
Firstly, all illnesses feel worse at night. In the daytime, you can distract yourself with daily activities. Once you are in bed with only your thoughts, it becomes very difficult to ignore coughs, sneezes, or other symptoms. Meanwhile, lying down will worsen congestion, particularly in the nasal passageway and throat. It creates difficulty breathing, which contributes heavily to obstructive sleep apnea too.
Allergy symptoms don’t only worsen because of gravity and a lack of distraction. There is a combination of having been exposed to external allergens during the day and now being surrounded by internal allergens at night. Dust mites, mold, and pet hair are all commonplace in bedroom environments, which can cause further irritation.
What can trigger nighttime allergy symptoms?
Symptoms of allergies surface because the body’s defenses are fighting the foreign particle that are deemed to be a threat, despite the fact that they are often harmless items like pollen. The aforementioned items like dust mites and mold can trigger allergies. Similarly, if your immune system is vulnerable to pollen or outside allergens, it may be a case of bringing them into the home via your skin, hair, or clothes.
Dust mites are often found in mattresses, pillows, and duvets. In fact, a mattress could harbor up to 10 million dust mites. Meanwhile, mold is often left untreated when it appears behind beds. Not everyone’s immune system will be bothered by dust mites or other allergens but those that are will find that their symptoms worsen whenever they come into contact with them. A humid surrounding won’t help the situation either.
What types of allergies get worse at night?
As published by the National Library of Medicine, Yang Xi et al. confirmed links between allergies and sleep-related disorders. For example, people who had OSAs were 2.72 × higher odds of experiencing hay fever. Virtually all types of allergies get worse at night, which is not surprising given the impact of gravity and the psychological impact of not having distractions. All allergies can get worse at night, regardless of whether your symptoms are mild or severe.
- Seasonal allergic rhinitis, also known as hay fever.
- Mold allergies.
- Pet dander allergies.
- Dust mite allergies.
How to prevent nighttime allergies?
Prevention is the best form of protection when dealing with nighttime allergies and the allergens that trigger your symptoms. Therefore, you must try to prevent bringing pollen from outdoors into the sleeping environment while also ensuring that the bedroom itself carries fewer allergens. Some of the top tips to do this include, but are not limited to;
- If you’ve been outside, shower or wash before going into the bedroom.
- Wash the bed covers, duvet, and pillows once per week.
- Where possible, lose carpets for hardwood flooring or vinyl.
- Consider adding plastic covers to the bedding to prevent mites.
- Regularly clean under and behind the bed.
- Add a dehumidifier to improve the air quality in the room.
When dealing with a child’s room, keeping soft teddies stored in boxes can be a useful step too. It prevents them from collecting dust.
How to manage nighttime allergies?
Night time allergies can be controlled with immunotherapy, antihistamines, steroid tablets, and steroid creams. In studies into antihistamines and allergy, Katrina L Randall found that “less sedating antihistamines can be taken long term with no loss of efficacy”. This can help stop the symptoms from worsening at night. Adrenaline auto-injectors are another option.
Changing the sleeping environment and adopting simple lifestyle updates can have a big impact. From reducing your time outside when the pollen count is high to keeping rooms ventilated, you could see a noticeable difference. If you do, implementing a consistent approach to keep symptoms at bay will be advised.
When to see a doctor?
Allergies will disrupt your quality of sleep and quality of life while coughing, sneezing, and other symptoms can harm your mental health too. If you suspect that you do have an allergy, it is best to visit a doctor as they can help identify what the cause of your nighttime allergies is, along with the best management or future prevention tips. Of course, many of the symptoms can be linked to viral infections. However, if the symptoms tend to surface only when you interact with allergens, it is a clear sign to visit a doctor.
Get help from an online doctor
Finding a local doctor isn’t always easy or convenient. If you simply want to see an online doctor who can discuss symptoms and management tips while also scheduling any necessary allergy tests as well as issues like asthma testing, DrHouse is the answer. In fact, you could be connected to a professional in as little as 15 minutes without even needing to leave your home.
Living with allergies can be very frustrating, especially when they worsen at night and prevent you from drifting off to sleep. Treating allergies in general with medications or preventative measures will make a world of difference. However, securing an accurate diagnosis can form a significant step on the path to restoring a sense of normality. Call DrHouse to regain control of the situation today.
- Allergy Facts, American College of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology. Available from: https://acaai.org/allergies/allergies-101/facts-stats/
- Hoyte FCL, Nelson HS. Recent advances in allergic rhinitis. F1000Res. 2018 Aug 23;7:F1000 Faculty Rev-1333. doi: 10.12688/f1000research.15367.1. PMID: 30210782; PMCID: PMC6107993. Available from: 10.12688/f1000research.15367.1
- Patrick J. Strollo, Jr., M.D., and Robert M. Rogers, M.D, Obstructive Sleep Apnea, January 11, 1996, N Engl J Med 1996; 334:99-104 DOI: https://www.doi.org/10.1056/NEJM199601113340207
- Xi Y, Deng YQ, Chen SM, Kong YG, Xu Y, Li F, Jiao WE, Lu G, Tao ZZ. Allergy-related outcomes and sleep-related disorders in adults: a cross-sectional study based on NHANES 2005-2006. Allergy Asthma Clin Immunol. 2022 Mar 22;18(1):27. doi: https://www.doi.org/10.1186/s13223-022-00669-z . PMID: 35317862; PMCID: PMC8941730.
- Allergies, NHS, Available from: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/allergies/
DrHouse articles are written by MDs, NPs, nutritionists and other healthcare professionals. The contents of the DrHouse site are for informational purposes only and are not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. If you are experiencing high fever (>103F/39.4C), shortness of breath, difficulty breathing, chest pain, heart palpitations, abnormal bruising, abnormal bleeding, extreme fatigue, dizziness, new weakness or paralysis, difficulty with speech, confusion, extreme pain in any body part, or inability to remain hydrated or keep down fluids or feel you may have any other life-threatening condition, please go to the emergency department or call 911 immediately.