Tell us about your symptoms and treatment experience. Take our survey here.

Drained and Dragging: How Environmental Allergies Impact Quality of Life

Reviewed by: HU Medical Review Board | Last reviewed: March 2022

People can be allergic to things in the environment that lessen their quality of life. Pollen from plants and trees is a top allergen. Many also react to dust. Pollution from cars and factories can trigger symptoms too.1-6

Environmental allergies can affect daily life for those who suffer from them. The symptoms alone bring distress. They can also impact people’s sleep and their physical, mental, and social health.1-6

Symptoms of allergic rhinitis

Allergic rhinitis is an environmental allergy that affects many people. Another name for allergic rhinitis is hay fever. Hay fever often causes:1-3,5,6

  • Coughing
  • Headaches
  • Inflamed sinuses
  • Itching
  • Nasal congestion
  • Post-nasal drip
  • Runny nose
  • Sinus pain and pressure
  • Sneezing
  • Watery eyes

The symptoms of hay fever bother some people more at certain times of day. For example, symptoms caused by indoor allergens are usually worse at night and in the morning.2,3,5

Sleep troubles that affect you night and day

Research has proven that hay fever causes sleep troubles. According to one study, 73 percent of people with hay fever had sleep troubles that hindered their life. Several other studies showed people with worse hay fever have greater sleep troubles.3-6

Symptoms of hay fever can keep people from falling and staying asleep. This is insomnia. Allergic rhinitis can also lead to breathing disorders like sleep apnea and snoring. All these problems keep people from getting good sleep.2-5

Many studies have shown that sleep troubles related to hay fever last beyond nighttime. These include trouble getting up, headaches after waking, and feeling sleepy during the day. These may result from lack of sleep and certain drugs used to help people sleep.2-5

Reduced function at home, school, and work

Like many people with hay fever, you may feel tired, weak, and worn out from battling allergies and how they interfere with your sleep. This can drain you of energy you need to function.2,4,5

Your ability to focus and think clearly can decline because of allergies like hay fever. You may have a tough time recalling things. This makes learning challenging.2,5

A 2016 study found that people with allergic rhinitis did not fare as well at home, school, and work compared to others. Their output dropped by 21 percent at school and work, and by 22 percent at home. The decline at school and work came from missing time and not performing well when present.6

Higher rates of depression and anxiety

Environmental allergies may also affect your mental state. Having allergies can lead to anxiety, fear, and worry. How to prevent and treat your symptoms can consume your thoughts.3,4

Allergies can impact your social life too. You may shy away from people because you feel insecure about your symptoms. To prevent allergic reactions, you may avoid family gatherings and public events, and spend more time alone.3,4

Liking nature but not being able to enjoy it due to allergies can affect your mood and outlook. You may feel like something precious to you has been taken away. A 2017 survey looked at how hay fever affected people between ages 8 and 30. Results showed they had higher levels of anxiety and depression.4

People who are allergic to things outdoors may stay indoors more often. They take in less fresh air and sunlight, and miss the benefits they provide. For instance, the sun helps the body make vitamin D, a vital nutrient for many body functions like immunity.3

Dealing with the impact of environmental allergies

Having environmental allergies does not mean you have to always feel bad or stay indoors. You can take action to control your symptoms so you can still enjoy life and the outdoors. You can reduce your exposure to allergens by:4-6

  • Engaging in outdoor pastimes when allergen levels are lower
  • Spending time outside in less polluted areas and more green spaces
  • Choosing to live in a place with less toxins in the air
  • Washing your body, clothes, and hair after being outside
  • Cleaning your home to get rid of dust, mold, and other allergens

Taking drugs as prescribed to control your symptoms can also lessen the impact of environmental allergies. Antihistamines and nasal sprays work well for many. Immunotherapy can be effective too.4-6

See your doctor for guidance and help with allergic reactions to things in the air. They may order tests to pinpoint exactly what bothers you. Your doctor may prescribe treatments for your allergies. They may also refer you to a doctor with special training in allergies or mental health.

With medical care and support, you can take charge of your health and manage the impact outdoor allergens have on your life. Getting relief from your symptoms can improve your sleep, mood, and social life. Being able to function better and do more of the things you love will enhance your quality of life.

By providing your email address, you are agreeing to our privacy policy.