Link Between Allergic Rhinitis and Thyroid Disease

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It may seem surprising that your allergies could have anything to do with autoimmune thyroid disease (AITD). Both conditions, however, are caused by similar immune responses. This may be helpful to know if you're having trouble managing your hay fever symptoms. It might even be a good idea to get evaluated for a thyroid condition.

This article discusses hay fever and its relationship to AITD. It also discusses symptoms and treatment considerations.

Symptoms of Allergic Rhinitis

Hay fever is also called allergic rhinitis. In people with this condition, an immune response is triggered by an allergen such as pollen, mold, or dust mites.

The symptoms of allergic rhinitis include:

Most of the allergens that cause hay fever are breathed in through the nose or enter the mucous membranes in the eyes. This is why symptoms occur in these areas.

Note that there are two types of allergic rhinitis: seasonal and perennial. Seasonal allergies flare up when allergens are most prevalent. Perennial allergies occur year-round.

Recap

Symptoms of allergic rhinitis include sneezing, runny nose, watery eyes, and sinus headache. You may have these symptoms only at certain times of the year or year-round.

Allergic Rhinitis and Thyroid Disease

A number of recent studies have found connections between allergic rhinitis and AITD.

A 2015 study looked at 2,000 people with allergic rhinitis. It found that more than 16% of them had Hashimoto's thyroiditis. This autoimmune condition is the leading cause of hypothyroidism, or low thyroid function. This is significant because only around 1.5% of people in the general population have Hashimoto's disease.

Research has also found a link between allergic rhinitis and Graves' disease. Grave's disease is the leading cause of hyperthyroidism, or overactive thyroid. Compared to the general population, people with Graves' disease are 42.9% more likely to have chronic or recurrent allergic rhinitis.

There are other autoimmune diseases that often coexist with allergic rhinitis, including:

There may also be associations between AITDs and these conditions, as well as AITDs and food allergies.

Recap

Some studies have found associations between AITD and hay fever. Compared to people in the general population, people with AITD are more likely to also have allergies.

Diagnosis of Autoimmune Thyroid Disease

It's not clear why people with allergic rhinitis are more susceptible to AITD or vice-versa. If you're affected by allergic rhinitis, though, it might be a good idea to have your thyroid levels tested. It is especially important to get tested if you have risk factors for AITDs like:

Treatment Considerations

Many people treat allergic rhinitis with over-the-counter (OTC) or prescription antihistamines and decongestants. The package inserts of these drugs sometimes say they shouldn't be taken by people with thyroid disease.

This is because people with thyroid disease may be over sensitive to certain side effects. For example, decongestants may cause tremors or nervousness in people with high thyroid hormone levels. In people with low thyroid hormone levels, the drowsy effect of antihistamines may be increased.

If your hormone levels are well managed, these side effects aren't likely. Other medications that treat allergic rhinitis aren't known to be a problem for people with AITD. These include:

These drugs aren't known to react with thyroid medications, either.

The synthetic thyroid hormone Synthroid (levothyroxine) is used to treat Hashimoto's disease and hypothyroidism. People who are sensitive to certain ingredients in this drug may have side effects similar to the symptoms of allergic rhinitis.

Recap

People with AITDs may have worsened side effects to common drugs used to treat allergies.

The antithyroid medications used to treat Graves' disease aren't known to interact with allergy drugs. Still, it is important to tell your doctor about all drugs you take, including OTC products and supplements.

If you see an endocrinologist and an allergist or ear, nose, and throat specialist (ENT), make sure all your doctors are aware of all the treatments you are undergoing.

allergic reaction triggers
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Coping with AITD and Allergies

Research shows that allergies sometimes can aggravate or even induce an AITD. This is why it is important to make sure you are managing both conditions. In particular, you should do all you can to avoid things that trigger your allergies.

The American College of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology recommends the following steps:

  • If you're sensitive to pollen, keep the windows of your car and your home closed when pollen levels are heavy. Use air conditioning if it's hot out.
  • Wear glasses or sunglasses to keep pollen out of your eyes.
  • Use bedding that's labeled "mite-proof" to limit exposure to dust mites.
  • Prevent mold in your home by using a dehumidifier in mold-prone areas.
  • After petting an animal, wash your hands before touching your face.
  • Do all you can to stay away from any other allergens you're aware of such as cigarette smoke, cleaning solutions, or car exhaust fumes.

Recap

The best way to manage your allergies is to avoid the things that trigger them. Keep your windows closed during allergy season, for example, and wear sunglasses to keep pollen out of your eyes.

Summary

There is some evidence of an association between autoimmune thyroid disease (AITD)and allergic rhinitis, or hay fever. If you're having trouble managing your hay fever symptoms, you may benefit from having your thyroid levels tested. 

Be careful with allergy medication if you have an AITD. Some side effects may be worse in people with AITDs. Always make sure to tell all your doctors about the medications you're taking, including supplements and over-the-counter remedies. 

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6 Sources
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