Do you wake up with morning headaches, feeling congested, or sniffling? Dr. Sommerhalder explains why your allergies may be worse in the morning and what you can do about it.
Evo Terra (Host): If you wake up with congestion, sniffling, a sore throat, or even red or puffy eyes, it's easy to assume you caught a cold. However, these symptoms could also be caused by morning allergies. Let's learn more with Allergist, Dr. Savannah Sommerhalder with Aspire Allergy and Sinus This is Achoo, the podcast for people with allergies and sinus issues. I am Evo Terra. Can you explain to me Dr. Sommerhalder, the difference between morning allergies and regular seasonal allergies?
Savannah Sommerhalder, MD (Guest): Sure I would love to. And thankyou for having me on. So, a lot of people are complaining about sniffling, sneezing, post-nasal drainage, congestion, and you're right, getting it confused with a cold. Morning allergies are typically described as having these symptoms, right when you wake up in the morning or they're even waking you up in the morning and you just feel like you need immediate relief right when you wake up, versus seasonal allergies, which typically will last throughout the day, they can start early in the morning. But they definitely can last throughout the day and even sometimes be worse at night.
Host: Got it. So, let's focus in on these morning allergies. You were telling me the top causes of morning allergies.
Dr. Sommerhalder: So, people who are complaining of these morning allergies are typically having some long period of exposure to their specific allergen during the night or when they're sleeping. That's the reason and they have these morning allergens. Some of these allergens include dust mites, which are tiny microscopic insects that live in your mattresses and in your pillows, also pet dander. So, cat dander or dog dander. A lot of people's pets sleep in their beds with them. So, of course, they're going to be kind of basking in that dander throughout the night. Indoor molds. So, if you have molds inside your home, you're definitely being exposed to them throughout tonight. And then lastly are pollens, which are seasonal allergens typically, but you know, if you go outside and you don't wash your hair, for example, then you lay down on your pillow or, you don't wash your skin before you go to bed, then it's on your skin and it gets on your sheets. So then again, you're being exposed to those proteins or those allergens that you may or may not be sensitive to.
Host: Right. So, other than kicking the cat off the bed, what else might one do to manage symptoms of morning allergies?
Dr. Sommerhalder: So, I guess since you mentioned the dog and cat dander, getting them off the bed is great. Cat dander actually is particularly allergenic. It can last in your home for several years, even if you didn't have he cat anymore. So moving them off the bed will help a little bit, but it definitely won't resolve it completely. So, like I had mentioned, showering before bed is great. But specifically for animal dander or pet dander, HEPA filters have been proven to be very helpful. Those specific HEPA air purifiers or filters are beneficial, for pet dander. The dust mites that I had mentioned, there are great dust mite covers for your mattress and your pillow.
I certainly recommend those to all my patients who are suffering from allergies, and definitely if we can find that specific allergen is something that they're say sensitive to. We've got great studies that show that those covers help protect you from the dust mite as an allergen. Showering at night is also very important if you suffer from allergies. When you go outside, you're inevitably going to get pollen in your hair and on your skin. And so showering and protecting your sheet and your pillows from those pollens is very important there as well. Those are three great things to be done to manage those symptoms in the morning.
Host: Let's go long term. What is to be done in the long-term to help us to really control this? What can be explored so we don't have this problem anymore?
Dr. Sommerhalder: Certainly getting tested. Making sure that it's an allergen that's bothering you and not something else. So, finding out what you're allergic to is important. Specifically, if we can identify what you're allergic to, so are you allergic to dust mites, are you allergic to your pets and what pollens may you be sensitive to, which could be helpful in directing us when we know what time of year you're suffering or is it every morning? So, those are all important things. So, testing is very important. There's also immunotherapy, that's offered as a treatment or as a cure for your allergens. It's very specific therapy based on what you're sensitive to. So, again, you need to be tested in order to receive immunotherapy, but we've got subcutaneous immunotherapy, so it's injections in the arm. We've got sublingual immunotherapy, which are drops under the tongue and you can actually do those drops or receive that therapy in the comfort of your own home. You don't have to come into the doctor's office to get it, and the newest one that we have is called ExACT Immunoplasty, and it's treating you the same way, but it's a little truncated in terms of the timeline. And so, you're treating in three treatments, versus tens and tens of treatments when you're doing the drops and the shots in your arm. And so all three are very good options.
Host: Well, I was hoping you were going to say, get rid of the cat, but you didn't.
Host: Well Doctor, thank you for all of the information and I hope this is helpful in helping people get past these terrible things called morning allergies. Thanks again.
Dr. Sommerhalder: Of course, you too. Thank you so much.
Host: Once again, that was Dr. Savannah Sommerhalder, an Allergist with Aspire Allergy and Sinus. To learn more about getting control of your allergies, please visit aspireallergy.com. That's aspireallergy.com. If you found this information helpful, please share it on your social channels and check out the full podcast library for topics of interest to you. This is Achoo, the podcast for people with allergies and sinus issues. I'm Evo Terra. Thanks for listening.
Dr. Sommerhalder received her medical degree through Ross University School of Medicine and completed her pediatric residency training at The University of Texas Medical Branch. She is board-certified through the American Board of Pediatrics. She served as chief fellow during her fellowship and was assistant chief during her residency. Dr. Sommerhalder offers comprehensive care for both children and adults in the areas of food and environmental allergies, as well as sinus services.