Can Allergies Affect Your Ability To Function?

EMAA Everyone who suffers from allergies has experienced the common allergy symptoms like runny nose, sneezing and itchy eyes. But can allergies impact your ability to function or your mood? Many patients report feeling "foggy" or fatigued when their allergies are acting up. Some even report trouble concentrating or remembering. Parents often report disruptive behavior in children who may be too young to express their symptoms verbally when their allergies flare. It is very important that these children are not misdiagnosed as having a learning deficit or ADD.

Causes of Cognitive Impairment

Two of the major causes for these types of symptoms with allergies are sleep disturbance and medication side effects. Other factors include constant nasal drainage and itching of the eyes and nose. These may disrupt concentration and impair the learning process.

Sleep Disturbances

Most people need about eight hours of sleep per night to function well. Even small decreases in sleep can cause poor job or school performance. Chronic sleep disruption can lead to serious problems with learning and performance.

Chronic nasal congestion may cause difficulty breathing during the night which in turn may disrupt sleep. With allergic Can Allergies Affect Your Ability to Function? rhinitis, patients may awaken several times a night due to nasal obstruction causing a decrease in total hours and quality of sleep. This may result in daytime somnolence, irritability and poor performance.


Antihistamines and decongestants are the most commonly used over the counter medications for allergy symptoms. Antihistamines block the effects of histamine, such as runny nose, sneezing and itching. Some antihistamines cause drowsiness and poor performance on tests. Fortunately, non-sedating antihistamines are now available. Decongestants open the nasal passages by constricting the blood vessels in the nose. Some of these may cause appetite loss, irritability and may increase blood pressure. These medications may also disrupt sleep.

What you Can Do

One sure way to stop allergic symptoms is to avoid the things that you are allergic to. While this is not practical for all cases, measures taken to decrease exposure may be very helpful.

If allergens are not avoidable, your doctor may be able to recommend medications with the least likelihood of having side effects. Determining exactly what you are allergic to may allow you to use medications only in certain seasons instead of taking medications all the time. If medications are not helpful, a course of immunotherapy or allergy shots may be appropriate. This process decreases the allergic response of the immune system by giving gradually increasing doses of allergens over a long period of time. By getting allergy symptoms under control you may sleep better at night and ultimately function better during the day.