Updated 19 December 2018

Your allergies can cause a sore body

Does your hay fever or seasonal sinusitis make you feel sick, cranky, achy and sore? This is why, and this is what you can do.

Some people suffer from hay fever or allergy-induced sinusitis in summer due to the higher pollen count or humidity. Symptoms like itchy eyes, coughing, runny nose and constant congestion are enough to wear anyone down.

Not only in your head and nose

For some, a mild sense of discomfort may be as bad as it gets. But, according to the Orthopedic Institute of Pennsylvania (OIP), some people who suffer from seasonal allergies may also experience severe joint, muscle, back and neck ache.

You may even experience a low-grade fever, which makes it easy to confuse your allergy symptoms with a cold or even flu. 

The link between chronic fatigue, aches, pains and allergies was established decades ago. In a study published in The Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology, patients who complained of fatigue, low-grade fever, aches and pains also often reported either seasonal or food allergies.

How are pain and allergies related?

While seasonal allergies often affect the nasal region, and the symptoms are mostly above the neck, pollen can affect the entire body as your immune system goes into overdrive.

Allergies and joint pain

When you experience allergies, your body has higher inflammation levels than usual as your immune system reacts to pollen and your body attempts to “flush” out the allergens, according to the OIP. This can cause joint ache.

Allergies and body aches

Muscle ache can also be caused by the higher levels of inflammation in the body, as well as excessive sneezing and coughing, which place strain on your neck, back and abdomen. Generally, body aches are not associated with allergies, therefore you will need to make sure you don’t in fact have a cold.

If the aches do not disappear as your allergy symptoms clear up, it’s important to get the correct treatment as it could actually be a cold. Seasonal allergies can also lead to a respiratory or sinus infection, so make sure you are treating the right condition. 

Allergies and tiredness

Seasonal allergies may also worsen fatigue and interfere with your regular sleep pattern, which can ultimately make existing aches and pains worse. Your body might feel more weary than usual while it’s fighting allergy-causing substances.

Establishing the cause

Chronic body aches can have many different causes. It is therefore important to see if your chronic muscle and joint pains decrease when you take antihistamines. If not, there may be a different underlying cause such as arthritis or fibromyalgia.

You can also visit a specialised allergist if your symptoms are severe, and to rule out any other underlying medical condition.

Tips on managing your symptoms

It’s important to first rule out all underlying medical conditions. If you’ve established that your constant joint aches and fatigue are indeed related to allergies, you can talk to your doctor or allergist about ways to ease these symptoms. In the meantime, try the following:

  • Monitor the pollen count and limit outdoor activities to when the pollen count is lower. You can do this by consulting a weather app.
  • Consider taking an anti-inflammatory medicine (NSAIDs or ibuprofen) to ease mild to severe joint and muscle pain.
  • Take measures to minimise the pollen-count indoors. Shower and change clothes as soon as you get home, vacuum thoroughly and change your linen often.
  • Reduce any food and drink that might cause an inflammatory reaction, such as alcohol and foods high in sugar.
  • Take an antihistamine well in advance (before you head outside) to build up antihistamine levels in your system.
  • Ease sinusitis-related congestion by taking an over-the-counter remedy.

Image credit: iStock


Ask the Expert

Allergy expert

Dr Morris is the Principal Allergist at the Cape Town and Johannesburg Allergy Clinics with postgraduate diplomas in Allergology, Dermatology, Paediatrics and Family Medicine dealing with both adult and childhood allergies.

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