How Allergies Can Make You Dizzy

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

 NickyLloyd / Getty Images

If you have allergies, there are a number of reasons you might experience dizziness. This symptom can occur along with more classic reactions to airborne allergens such as sneezing or hives. It also is a side effect of certain types of allergy medications. Dizziness sometimes is part of a cluster of symptoms of anaphylaxis, a severe allergic reaction to food, insect stings, and other such allergens. An anaphylactic reaction can be life-threatening and requires immediate medical attention.

Dizziness is not the same as vertigo, which causes you to feel as if everything in your immediate environment is spinning around you and is not associated with allergies in any way.

The Role of IgE

Your immune system produces different types of antibodies in response to substances that could indicate a threat (antigens). One of these is immunoglobulin E (IgE). Antigens that trigger IgE production are called allergens.

The first time the body is exposed to a specific allergenic protein, it is taken in by immune cells and presented to lymphocytes, which then produce IgE antibodies specific for that protein that circulate throughout the body and bind to mast cells and basophils. When the same allergen is encountered again, it is bound to the IgE that is attached to these cells, triggering the release of histamine.

The release of histamine sets off a variety of responses that are beneficial in fighting off pathogens, but are unneeded or excessive in response to an allergen. In the case of respiratory allergies, these include sneezing, swelling of membranes (edema), increased mucus secretion, and wheezing.

When histamines are released in response to a food, medication, or insect sting or bite, the histamine reaction symptoms can range from mild to life-threatening:

  • Dizziness, lightheadedness, or fainting
  • Trouble breathing, coughing, wheezing, or chest tightness
  • Red and itchy eyes
  • Hives or swelling (angioedema)
  • Throat tightness, choking, trouble swallowing, or swelling of the tongue
  • Vomiting
  • Anxiety or agitation

Airborne Allergies and Dizziness

Airborne allergies can lead to sinus congestion as well as inflammation of the lining of the eustachian (auditory) tube, which normally equalizes the pressure in the middle ear. When the eustachian tube becomes blocked by inflammation, pressure builds and your ears feel plugged up, which sometimes can result in dizziness or balance problems.

You may also feel lightheaded or off balance from the side effects of allergy medication. For example, dizziness is a common side effect of the antihistamine Benadryl (diphenhydramine). Allegra (fexofenadine) also may cause dizziness.

Treating Dizziness

The first thing you should do if you feel dizzy is sit or lie down somewhere safe. If your healthcare provider has recommended allergy medications and you are due for a dose, taking it may subdue the histamine reaction causing your dizziness. Such medications include nasal steroids and topical or oral antihistamines. If you are at risk of an anaphylactic reaction you may be prescribed an epinephrine injector to carry and use.

See your healthcare provider if you have not been diagnosed with allergies but suspect you've been having allergic reactions to something in your environment. You also should contact your healthcare provider or seek immediate medical attention if you have persistent or severe bouts of dizziness.

Dizziness and Anaphylaxis

Anaphylaxis is a potentially life-threatening allergic reaction. It most often is associated with allergies to food, medication, latex, and insect stings.The symptoms of anaphylaxis come on within 20 to 30 minutes of ingestion or exposure.

Dizziness can occur as part of an anaphylactic episode, often because of a drop in blood presure, but it usually is not a primary symptom. Classic signs of anaphylaxis include:

  • Difficulty breathing
  • Swelling or tightness in the throat
  • Swelling of the tongue
  • Hoarseness
  • Fast or irregular heartbeat
  • Urticaria (hives)
  • Angioedema (swelling)
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea

In severe cases, cardiac arrest or death may occur.

Take No Chances

Seek immediate medical attention for any symptoms of anaphylaxis, including dizziness, even if you aren't aware you've eaten or been exposed to an allergen. Call 911 and use your epinephrine autoinjector if you have one.

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 are experiencing more classic symptoms of an allergic reaction to something in your environment or a food or insect bite, the dizziness is likely just one more manifestation of the response. Medication you take to manage allergies also can play a role in dizziness. If it becomes frequent or severe, see your doctor, who may want to investigate other potential sources of your dizzness such as migraine or benign paroxysmal positional vertigo (BPPV).

Was this page helpful?
Article 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 College of Allergy, Asthma, & Immunology. Allergy and immunology glossary.

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

  3. World Allergy Organization. IgE in clinical allergy and allergy diagnosis. Updated July 2015.

  4. Schroeder A et al. Food allergy is associated with an increased risk of asthma. Clin Exp Allergy. 2009 Feb;39(2):261-70. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2222.2008.03160.x

  5. American Academy of Family Physicians. Eustachian tube dysfunction. Updated January 8, 2020.

  6. Cleveland Clinic. Diphenhydramine capsules or tablets.

  7. MedlinePlus. Fexofenadine. Updated December 15, 2017.

  8. American College of Allergy, Asthma, & Immunology. Anaphylaxis. Updated January 29, 2018.