Can Dizziness Be a Symptom of Allergies?

Close-up shot of a woman suffering from a headache and rubbing her temples at home

 NickyLloyd / Getty Images

Allergies can sometimes make you feel dizzy. Dizziness may be caused by inflammation of the ear canal in nasal allergies; it can also be a side effect of certain allergy medications.

This article will explore whether dizziness could be a symptom of allergies. It also discusses potential causes of dizziness and treatments for allergies and this related symptom.

What Is Dizziness?

Dizziness causes you to feel off-balance and unsteady on your feet. It is sometimes confused with vertigo or lightheadedness. Unlike dizziness, vertigo is the feeling that you or your surroundings are in motion. These sensations are distinct from lightheadedness, which is a feeling like you might faint.

Is Dizziness a Symptom of Allergies?

Dizziness can be a symptom of nasal, or respiratory, allergies (also known as allergic rhinitis or hay fever). You get nasal allergies when your immune system mistakes certain airborne substances (such as pollen or pet hair) for a foreign substance. In response to the allergens, your body releases histamines. Histamines help your body get rid of harmful substances. In addition to dizziness, they often cause sneezing, increased mucus production, and wheezing.

The two main causes of dizziness due to airborne allergens are:

  • Inflammation of the lining of the eustachian tube, also called the auditory tube
  • Oral anthistamines

The auditory tube normally equalizes the pressure in the middle ear. When it's blocked by inflammation, pressure builds up. This is what makes your ears feel plugged. Sometimes, this can result in dizziness or balance problems.

Allergy medications containing antihistamines, such as Zyrtec (citirizine) or Benadryl (diphenhydramine) may cause dizziness as a side effect. They can also make you feel lightheaded.

Treatments and Management of Dizziness

If you feel dizzy, the first thing you should do is sit or lie down somewhere safe.

If you are not taking allergy medication or managing your allergies in other ways, you may find relief from allergy symptoms, including dizziness, from some of these common allergy treatments. See an allergist for help deciding which one is right for you.

Allergy Medication

Allergy medications are available by prescription and over the counter (OTC). Options include:

If other therapies aren't working for you, your allergist may want to do tests to find out exactly what you're allergic to. Allergies to airborne substances like pollen and pet dander can be treated with allergy shots, although they don't work for everyone.

Allergy shots contain small amounts of the substance you're sensitive to. This helps desensitize your body to the allergen.

Diet

Research has found an association between diet and nasal allergies. High-fat and low-carbohydrate diets, for example, have been linked to nasal allergies in children.

Studies have also found a relationship between what you eat during pregnancy and your child's chances of developing allergies. In particular, diets high in vegetables and fish were associated with a lower risk, while diets high in vegetable oils and fast food are associated with higher risk.

Alternative Therapies

You may also want to try alternative remedies for your allergies. Some people find acupuncture helpful. This is a remedy used in Chinese medicine that involves inserting needles into select points on the body. 

Some studies have suggested that herbal supplements such as butterbur can be helpful for people with allergies. Keep in mind, though, that unpurified butterbur may harm your liver. Always ask your healthcare provider before you start taking supplements of any kind.

When to See Your Healthcare Provider

If you frequently experience dizziness as a result of allergies, talk to your healthcare providers about possible solutions, such as a change in treatment approach.

Dizziness and Anaphylaxis

Though dizziness is rarely the primary symptom, it is sometimes part of a cluster of symptoms of anaphylaxis, a severe allergic reaction to food, insect stings, and other allergens. When dizziness occurs, it is usually caused by a drop in blood pressure.


More serious symptoms of anaphylaxis include:


Vomiting and diarrhea

Swelling of the tongue or throat

Chest tightness

Difficulty breathing.


The symptoms come on within 20 to 30 minutes of ingestion or exposure. An anaphylactic reaction can be life-threatening and requires immediate medical attention. If your dizziness occurs with symptoms of anaphylaxis, call 911 and use an EpiPen if you have one. Anaphylaxis is a life-threatening emergency. 

Summary

Allergies to airborne substances can sometimes cause dizziness. This symptom usually happens when the auditory tube in your ear becomes swollen and blocked. Dizziness can also be a side effect of allergy medications. In some cases, it can be a symptom of anaphylaxis.

You can treat allergy-related dizziness and your other symptoms with prescription or OTC medication or immunotherapy. What you eat can also make a difference. It is also important to avoid allergens as much as possible.

A Word From Verywell

It can be scary to feel dizzy or off-balance, but it shouldn't be a cause for panic. If you also have other symptoms of an allergic reaction, the dizziness is probably related. If it becomes frequent or severe, see your doctor. There may be another cause for your dizziness, such as migraines or benign paroxysmal positional vertigo (BPPV).

9 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. American Academy of Family Physicians. Eustachian tube dysfunction.

  2. American Academy of Family Physicians. Familydoctor.org. Antihistamines.

  3. Anvari S, Miller J, Yeh CY, Davis CM. IgE-mediated food allergy. Clin Rev Allergy Immunol. 2019;57(2):244-60. doi:10.1007/s12016-018-8710-3

  4. World Allergy Organization. IgE in clinical allergy and allergy diagnosis.

  5. Kim SY, Sim S, Park B, Kim JH, Choi HG. High-fat and low-carbohydrate diets are associated with allergic rhinitis but not asthma or atopic dermatitis in children. PLoS One. 2016;11(2):e0150202. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0150202

  6. Netting MJ, Middleton PF, Makrides M. Does maternal diet during pregnancy and lactation affect outcomes in offspring? A systematic review of food-based approaches. Nutrition. 2014;30(11-12):1225-41. doi:0.1016/j.nut.2014.02.015

  7. Hauswald B, Yarin YM. Acupuncture in allergic rhinitisAllergo J Int 23, 115–119 (2014). doi:10.1007/s40629-014-0015-3

  8. Lewis SJ, Keister DM. Is butterbur an effective treatment for allergic rhinitis?. Evid Based Pract. 2017;20(11):15. doi:10.1097/01.EBP.0000541879.42327.4f

  9. American College of Allergy, Asthma, & Immunology. Anaphylaxis.

By Marlo Mittler, MS, RD
Marlo Mittler, MS, RD, is a registered dietitian specializing in pediatric, adolescent, and family nutrition. She is the owner of NutritionByMarlo.