Stuffy nose, sneezing, postnasal drip, coughing, runny nose — these are all common reactions to an allergen.
Allergies can flare anytime during the year, particularly during the spring, summer, and fall. And if you live with them, you might deal with bothersome symptoms all day, every day.
Some people, though, only have allergy symptoms in the morning, in which case, they’re fine for the rest of the day.
If so, don’t let allergies get your day off to a bad start. Here are a few causes of allergy symptoms in the morning, as well as ways to prevent sneezing, coughing, and other symptoms.
Allergy symptoms are sometimes due to allergic rhinitis or hay fever. Symptoms occur when the immune system overreacts to allergens in the air, causing swelling and inflammation in the nose.
This immune system reaction can trigger the aforementioned symptoms, and cause other symptoms too, such as:
- nasal congestion
- watery eyes
Allergens responsible for morning symptoms include:
If you have a pollen allergy, you’ll likely notice a worsening of allergy symptoms in the morning.
This is because pollen counts are at their highest in the morning. So, if you’re outdoors during this time of day — walking the dog, going for an early morning run, or getting ready for work — you may start sniffling, sneezing, and coughing upon stepping outdoors.
2. Dust mites
Allergies can also flare in the mornings if you’re allergic to dust mites. These are microscopic bugs that live in homes, and unfortunately, the bedroom is a hot spot for them.
They tend to live and multiply on mattresses, pillows, bedding, and furniture. Dust mites don’t bite or spread diseases. But if you’re sleeping in a bed infested with mites, you may wake up with allergy symptoms each morning.
3. Pet dander
Pet dander is another trigger of morning allergies, especially if your pet sleeps in your bed or bedroom. Even when pets don’t sleep with you, pet dander can still collect on your bedding and get trapped in the carpet.
Indoor mold can also make allergy symptoms worse in the morning, particularly if your bedroom is within close proximity to a bathroom, or near the location of a mold infestation.
Allergy symptoms in the morning aren’t only caused by allergens, though. Nonallergic rhinitis can also trigger morning allergy symptoms like congestion, runny nose, sneezing, and coughing.
Allergic rhinitis and nonallergic rhinitis cause similar symptoms. The difference is that nonallergic rhinitis doesn’t involve the immune system. Rather, other irritants and factors trigger allergy-like symptoms. These factors include:
1. Strong odors
If you use scented shower gels, essential oils, or lotion before bed, these odors could irritate the blood vessels in your nose, leading to congestion and increased mucus production. This can result in a sore throat, coughing, and runny nose.
Nightly exposure to these irritants can cause you to wake up with allergy symptoms. You might also wake up with symptoms if you’re sensitive to the detergent you use to wash bedding.
Certain medications can also trigger nonallergic rhinitis in the morning. Sometimes, the blood vessels in the nose dilate as a side effect of some medication — such as ibuprofen, aspirin, sedatives, and medications to reduce high blood pressure. When taken before bed, these medications can cause congestion and a runny nose in the morning.
3. Acid reflux
Acid reflux is when stomach acid back flows into the throat. Sleeping flat or on your back can worsen reflux and irritate your throat. This can lead to a sore throat, postnasal drip, and coughing in the morning. Symptoms often improve as the day goes on.
4. Hormonal changes
Hormonal changes due to pregnancy, menstruation, and the use of oral contraceptives can also cause nonallergic rhinitis. This is because a change in hormone levels can increase mucus production and trigger changes in the mucous membrane, resulting in nasal congestion, a runny nose, and sneezing.
Hormonal changes may cause all-day allergy symptoms. Or, you may have stuffiness in the morning that’s caused by exposure to an allergen or irritant while asleep.
Here are a few tips to prevent allergy symptoms in the morning, whether you’re dealing with allergic rhinitis or nonallergic rhinitis.
- Don’t sleep with your pets or allow them on your bedding. Bathe pets at least once a week to reduce allergens in the home.
- Remove carpet from your bedroom and replace with hardwood or tile floors.
- Use a dehumidifier to reduce the humidity level in your bedroom to below 50 percent. This helps kill dust mites.
- Put a dust mite-proof cover over your mattress and pillow.
- Take an antihistamine nightly before going to sleep.
- Dust hard surfaces at least once a week, and keep your bedroom clutter-free to reduce dust accumulation.
- Vacuum your carpet at least once a week using a vacuum with a HEPA filer. Wash bedding — including sheets and pillowcases — once a week in hot water (at least 130°F, or 54°C).
- Don’t sleep with your windows open. This can help eliminate pollen in your bedroom.
- Elevate the head of your bed six to eight inches to reduce the back flow of stomach acid while sleeping.
- Schedule professional mold testing to check the air quality inside your home.
Allergy symptoms in the morning can also disrupt the quality of your sleep at night. See a doctor if you’re unable to control allergy symptoms on your own or if you have severe symptoms.
You might need a prescription medication or allergy testing to determine the cause of symptoms and to rule out other problems.
Don’t let morning allergies get you down. Whether you’re dealing with hay fever or nonallergic rhinitis, the above tips can put an end to sneezing, congestion, and other allergy symptoms so that you wake up refreshed and ready to take on the day.