Many allergy sufferers question whether their shortness of breath is an allergy symptom or something more serious. The answer, however, is not a simple one.
There are many different types of allergies, and each can cause a unique set of symptoms. Allergies to food or medication can cause shortness of breath and other symptoms like hives or swelling. Other allergies, like hay fever or pet allergies, usually don't cause shortness of breath on their own.
That being said, if you have an allergy that causes inflammation in your nose or throat (like hay fever), it can lead to difficulty breathing if you experience severe inflammation. Also, if you have asthma and allergies, your allergies can trigger an asthma attack, which can cause shortness of breath.
The best way to determine if your shortness of breath is caused by allergies is to keep track of your symptoms. Make a note of when you have difficulty breathing, what activities you were doing at the time (like mowing the lawn or being around pets), and any other symptoms like sneezing or a runny nose. If you can identify a pattern, it’s easier to figure out what's triggering issues and the next steps to take.
What Causes Allergies?
Allergies occur when your body has an adverse reaction to something that's usually harmless. When you come into contact with the allergen, your body releases histamine and other chemicals in an attempt to protect itself. This release can cause a variety of symptoms, including shortness of breath.
Several types of allergies can cause shortness of breath. Allergic asthma, for example, is one type of allergy that's usually triggered by irritants in the environment—things like dander (causing an allergic response to cats, dogs, or other animals), dust mites, cockroaches, mold, and pollen. Mold and pollen are common allergens that produce seasonal allergies, while pet dander or dust mites cause symptoms year-round.
How Do Allergies Cause Shortness of Breath?
There are various ways allergies cause shortness of breath. The most direct way is if the allergen irritates your nasal and breathing pathways. This condition is called allergic rhinitis. Allergic rhinitis, otherwise known as hay fever, is an inflammation of the nose and sinuses. It can cause sneezing, congestion, a runny nose, and itchy, watery eyes. If you have severe congestion, it may be difficult to breathe through your nose, which results in feeling short of breath.
Another way allergies cause shortness of breath is if you have asthma and your allergies trigger an attack. Asthma is a chronic lung condition that causes the airways to swell and narrow, making it difficult to breathe. If you have asthma and come into contact with an allergen, it can trigger an asthma attack and make it hard to breathe.
What Are Allergy Symptoms?
Symptoms of allergies vary depending on the type of allergy and the severity of the reaction. Some people with allergies only have mild symptoms, while others have a severe, life-threatening response called anaphylaxis.
Symptoms can also vary depending on the type of allergy. Some of the most common include:
Hay Fever (Allergic Rhinitis) Symptoms
- Runny, stuffy, or blocked nose
- Itchy nose or eyes
- Watery, red, or swollen eyes
- Itchy tongue or roof of your mouth
Food Allergy Symptoms
- Tingling sensations in the mouth
- Tongue, lips, face, or throat swelling
Allergic Asthma Symptoms
- Coughing or wheezing
- Shortness of breath
- Chest tightness
Insect Sting Allergy Symptoms
- Swelling at the sting site
- Wheezing or difficulty breathing
- Chest tightness
Drug Allergy Symptoms
- Swelling around the face
- Itchy skin
What Are the Best Allergy Remedies and Treatments?
There are different ways to treat allergies and reduce symptoms. The best way for you depends on the severity of your symptoms and your allergen triggers.
Over-the-Counter (OTC) Medications
Antihistamines, decongestants, and nasal sprays can relieve mild allergy symptoms.
If OTC medications don't work or you have severe reactions, your doctor might prescribe a stronger medication, like corticosteroids or immunotherapy.
One of the best ways to prevent allergic reactions is to avoid contact with allergens altogether. If you're allergic to pollen, for example, try to stay indoors when pollen counts are high. If you're allergic to pets, don't have a pet in your home. And if you're allergic to dust mites, make sure to keep your house clean and free of dust.
Other preventative tips include:
- Wash after returning home. Pollen and other allergens cling to your clothes, skin, and hair. Take a shower and wash your clothes as soon as you come inside to avoid spreading pollen around your house.
- Keep windows closed. During allergy season, keep your windows closed to keep pollen out of the house.
- Avoid mowing the lawn. If you're allergic to pollen, try to get someone else to mow your lawn and avoid being around people who are mowing.
- Wear a dust mask. If you have to be outside on a high-pollen day, wear a dust mask to avoid breathing in pollen particles.
- Clean regularly. Dust mites are tiny creatures that thrive in dirty environments. To reduce dust mites in your home, vacuum regularly and wash bedding in hot water. You can also invest in a HEPA filter to help clean airborne particles.
Can COVID-19 Cause Shortness of Breath?
Shortness of breath is an indication of a variety of health problems, not just allergies. Among those health problems is COVID-19, which can cause shortness of breath and difficulty breathing. Other signs associated with COVID-19 include fever, chills, coughing, tiredness, nasal congestion, and more.
If you've been having shortness of breath, even if you think it may be caused by allergies, please talk to a doctor to make sure it's not something more serious.
Stop Allergy Symptoms for Good
After you've ruled out other causes for your shortness of breath, the idea of dealing with allergies can be disheartening. The good news? Treatment is available to soothe allergy symptoms long-term.
Immunotherapy from Wyndly can help your body build up immunity so you no longer experience allergic reactions. Our allergy doctors guide you through the entire procedure, step-by-step, helping you discover your specific allergy profile and obtain long-term allergy relief.
Get started with lifelong allergy relief today by taking our easy 2-minute online assessment!