How Seasonal Allergies Can Affect Your Mood and Energy Levels—and What to Do About It

Bad news for anyone with seasonal allergies: Things are getting worse. Research indicates that, thanks to climate change, allergy season lasts longer and contains 21 percent more pollen compared to levels in 1990. This may lead to more severe symptoms for extended periods of time, says allergist-immunologist Payel Gupta, MD, FACAAI, assistant clinical professor at SUNY Downstate Medical Center and Mt. Sinai Medical Center.

Read on to learn how allergies can affect your mental health and energy, plus what you can do to fight back against them.

Allergies may increase stress. Itchy eyes, sneezing, difficulty breathing, and congestion are nobody’s idea of fun. This can impact your daily functioning and how you sleep. And that spills over into your day. All of this can add up to increased stress—and chronic stress may only make allergies worse.

Allergies may sap your energy. Poor sleep naturally leads to low energy levels. Additionally, allergies themselves can cause fatigue, Ogden says. They cause your immune system to kick in, just like if you had a cold or virus. And if your body is using energy to fight anything, naturally it means you have less vigor. Plus, some allergy medications list fatigue or drowsiness as a side effect, so talk to your doctor or a pharmacist if you think your medication is to blame.

Allergies may dampen your mood. Increased stress, a lack of sleep, and dealing with the effects of allergies—such as being less productive at work or turning down social events—can definitely make you feel down. Unfortunately, this can cause you to notice your symptoms more, which may only make you feel physically worse—and, in turn, create a negative loop in your mind and body.

Fight Back Against Seasonal Allergies

Act early next year. “Be ready before allergy season in March,” recommends allergist Neeta Ogden, MD, director of the Allergy, Asthma, and Sinus Center in Edison, NJ, and advisor to the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America. “Have medications ready and take care of yourself with good sleep, diet, and hydration.” These things don’t combat allergies, but they will help your body be strong so it can better cope with allergies, she explains.

Use the AC. For help with sleep during allergy season, as nice as a breeze from outside can be, keep the windows closed and turn on your air conditioning so you don’t allow any pollen into your room. Don’t let any pets that go outside sleep in your room or bed, as they may carry pollen with them. Take a shower before bed to rinse off any collected pollen and, lastly, consider a nightly saline rinse. “It allows you to shower out your nose of all that accumulates in the mucus membranes during the day,” Ogden says.

Skip the honey. Despite what you may have heard, local honey likely doesn’t help with allergies, says Melanie Carver, AAFA’s chief mission officer. “The belief is that eating honey that may contain pollen helps your body desensitize to the pollen and improves your allergy symptoms. But bees eat nectar and gather pollen produced by brightly colored flowers. These are not the same pollens responsible for most allergies,” she explains. (Remember: Most pollen that causes seasonal allergies comes from trees, grasses, and weeds.)

Consider a (de)humidifier. A humidifier adds moisture to the air, which can help relieve dry nasal passages. However, if you’re allergic to dust mites and mold, a humidifier may make things worse, because these allergens thrive in more humid environments. In that case, you may want a dehumidifier.

Try essential oils. Eucalyptus oil appears to have anti-inflammatory properties. Some holistic doctors recommend using a diffuser to inhale eucalyptus and open up nasal passages if you have allergies, but this has not been proven in studies. Be aware that some people may have allergic reactions to eucalyptus essential oil if it gets on their skin. Also know that “the strong odors emitted by essential oils contain volatile organic compounds (VOCs). These compounds worsen indoor air quality and can trigger an inflammatory response in your airways and trigger an asthma attack,” Carver says. She recommends talking to your doctor before trying any new remedy for allergies.

Still struggling? Using the proper medication to combat symptoms can help you get back to your normal routine and schedule, Gupta says. 

If over-the-counter remedies aren’t helping, consider working with an allergist. They can perform tests to identify your specific allergies. “Then you can work on different environmental measures to help and learn about prescription medications,” Gupta says. This can mean avoiding spending too much time outdoors when the pollen count is high for your allergy, as well as trying immunotherapy. “This is a way to desensitize the body to things that can cause allergies. Over time with immunotherapy, your body won’t react as strongly to your allergens, and therefore, you will have less symptoms overall,” Gupta explains.

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