Spring has sprung. And with it comes allergy season for millions of Americans. Those who are sensitive to pollen, dust mites, and other small debris will be cautious of the outdoors.
But if you have obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), and are not undergoing treatment, allergy season may be an especially concerning time. The two conditions – OSA and allergies – are undeniably linked.
Allergies can increase your chances of developing obstructive sleep apnea. Or they even exacerbate symptoms if you already have this sleeping disorder.
So for the sufferers of either or both, here’s everything you need to know about allergies and OSA.
Why do allergies affect obstructive sleep apnea?
Allergic reactions can interfere with healthy sleep patterns. However, they can be especially dangerous if you already have obstructive sleep apnea.
People who are sensitive to allergens release a chemical in the body. This in turn leads to nasal congestion, a runny nose, and watery eyes.
This congestion can also block your breathing airways, making existing obstructive sleep apnea worse. Those with OSA are already struggling to breathe properly at night.
Most of all, in several studies, researchers found that when allergies are a factor, obstructive sleep apneas (pauses in breath) are longer and more frequent. Hence the symptoms are essentially more severe.
Can allergies cause obstructive sleep apnea?
Scientists and researchers have studied the cause-and-effect of allergies and OSA for years. And the jury is still out on whether having allergies can definitively lead to developing sleep apnea.
But the thought is: if you are already at risk for OSA (due to factors such as a high BMI, age, and physical features), be aware. Allergies may certainly make it more likely for sleep apnea to occur.
Because of those blocked nasal passages and airways, the risk of OSA rises. In addition, certain allergic reactions that may swell the tonsils or adenoids, causes the chance for OSA to occur to double.
Will treating allergies fix obstructive sleep apnea?
While seeking treatment for your allergies via over-the-counter medications or a doctor’s visit can certainly help obstructive sleep apnea, it will not eliminate the condition altogether.
Obstructive sleep apnea must be treated separately, in addition to your allergies.
How do I know if I have allergies, obstructive sleep apnea, or both?
There are a number of signs to look for, especially during allergy season, to determine if you are suffering from allergies, sleep apnea, or both conditions.
One of the telltale markers of OSA is excessive loud snoring and pauses in breathing, (or gasps for breath), while you are fast asleep.
Additional signs include:
- headaches in the morning when you first wake up;
- daytime fatigue and sleepiness;
- a general lack of energy even though you are getting seven hours of sleep per night or more.
What’s the next step?
The most important thing you can do if you notice trouble with your sleep – whether it’s allergy season or not – is to get tested for OSA.
Modern obstructive sleep apnea treatments are easy, painless, and are often covered by insurance, getting your OSA under control. Therefore, it’s a relatively easy process that will improve your health, and your breathing, across the board.
Think you or a loved one might be a candidate for OSA? Don’t hesitate to contact us.