You may already be aware of some of the common factors that contribute to chronic pain, including lack of sleep and inflammatory foods. Yet there’s an often-overlooked factor that can also worsen discomfort in some people: allergies.
Here’s how your allergies could extend beyond sneezes and watery eyes to exacerbate your chronic pain.
Allergies impact your respiratory system, immune system, and epidermal (skin) tissue, so it should come as no surprise that they can also affect underlying pain conditions.
Allergies are caused by an overactive immune response. While the immune system should only kick in to attack viruses, bacteria, and other harmful agents, it also reacts to certain triggers which are harmless, such as specific foods and environmental factors. During this immune response, the body releases histamine, leading to inflammation, a runny nose, and itchy eyes.
As allergy symptoms reach their peak, they add physical stress that can compound existing pain.
The immune system and inflammation are intertwined, so the inflammatory response caused by allergies can also worsen the widespread inflammation underlying chronic pain. Symptoms like achiness may therefore feel more intense, especially if you have an inflammatory pain condition such as rheumatoid arthritis. You may also feel more worn out due to the physical strain of both the allergy symptoms and the persistent pain.
It’s likely impossible to avoid your allergy triggers altogether, especially if your triggers are seasonal allergens such as ragweed and pollen. But don’t despair: there are several things you can do to alleviate your symptoms.
For seasonal allergies, try to limit your exposure by keeping the windows closed and staying indoors when the pollen count is highest. Consider having outdoor time when your allergies are least likely to be affected (just after it rains, for example). Shower after being outside to prevent getting allergens in your bedding.
Ceiling fans can kick up dust and pollen, so cool your home with an air conditioner instead. You can also purchase special HVAC filters designed for allergy sufferers. These models filter out air particles more efficiently to promote better indoor air quality. Additionally, run a humidifier to keep the air moist, as dry nasal passageways can worsen sinus irritation. Air purifying systems are also available if your allergy symptoms are particularly intense.
There are several treatment options available for seasonal allergies. Some patients have success with over-the-counter allergy medications, while others pursue in-office allergy shots to help control their immune response. If you’re unsure which triggers affect you most acutely, you might also consider allergy testing. Doctors use a scratch test method to apply potential allergens to the surface of your skin, then determine which are most aggravating to you. Once your allergies are diagnosed, your doctor can recommend treatment options such as immunotherapy, which allows you to gradually develop a tolerance to the allergen.
While symptoms such as sinus congestion, coughing, sore throat, fatigue, and watery eyes are irritating enough on their own, they can become near-unbearable when coupled with chronic pain. If your chronic pain is wearing you down, contact Alliance Spine and Pain Centers to explore options for relief, or call (770) 929-9033.