An Overview of Morning Allergies

Causes, Symptoms, and Treatment Methods

Have you ever woken in the morning with congestion, irritation, and red, watery eyes? If so, you may have morning allergy symptoms. 

Many factors can cause morning allergies. Commonly, if ysour symptoms are worse in the morning, they may be caused by dust mites, which tend to make homes in people’s bedding. But these allergies can also be caused by pollen and pet dander.

Read more about morning allergies, their causes, symptoms, prevention, and treatment methods.

Morning Allergy Triggers

Verywell / Jessica Olah

Common Causes of Morning Allergies

Whether you have hay fever or a dust mite allergy, it is common to wake up sneezing when you have allergies. There are several reasons that can happen, including:

  • Pollen counts that are higher in the morning
  • Dust mites that live in and around your bed
  • Pet dander that accumulates in your bedroom

Allergy Statistics

Allergies are common, affecting more than 50 million Americans every year.

Dust Mites

As unpleasant as it sounds, allergies to dust mites aren’t actually an allergy to dust or the mite. Rather, it's the feces of the dust mite that actually contain the allergen (the substance that triggers an allergic reaction). Unlike pollen allergies, dust mite allergies occur year-round because they live inside your home.

Dust mites can live anywhere, but they especially like carpeting, bedding, curtains, and upholstered furniture. It’s not possible to eliminate dust mites.

Symptoms of dust mite allergies are typically worse in the morning because you are exposed to the allergen while you sleep.

Pollen

Pollen allergy, also known as hay fever or seasonal allergic rhinitis, is one of the most common allergies. In the United States, it affects 7.7% of adults and 7.2% of children.

Plants release pollen to fertilize other plants of the same species. Pollen allergies are caused by a reaction to the pollen that plants and trees release in the spring, summer, and fall.

Common pollen allergies include:

  • Grasses
  • Trees
  • Ragweed

Symptoms of pollen allergies are often worse in the morning. In addition, pollen may stick to your clothing, which means you carry the allergen around with you throughout the day. Also, if you sleep with your windows open, you may be exposed to pollen all night long. 

Pets

Allergies to pets often occur in people who have other allergies or asthma. In fact, as many as 30% of people with allergies are also allergic to cat and dog dander.

Cats vs. Dogs

Cat allergies are twice as common as dog allergies.

People with pet allergies react to proteins in a pet’s urine, saliva, or dander (dead skin cells). People often confuse pet hair or fur as an allergen, but it’s not. Pet hair or fur can be a carrier of allergens, though.

Symptoms of pet allergies can occur in the morning, especially if your pet sleeps in your bedroom with you. You may find relief from morning allergies if you keep your pet out of your bedroom and change your clothes before getting into bed.

Mold

Molds can be found both indoors and outdoors, which means you may have mold allergies year-round. When a source of mold is disrupted, spores are sent into the air. For the allergic person, breathing these in can set off a reaction.

Indoors, mold may be found in damp areas, like bathrooms, kitchens, and basements. Common places to find mold outdoors include:

  • Logs
  • Dead leaves
  • Compost 
  • Grasses
  • Grains

Symptoms of Allergies in the Morning

Allergy symptoms in the morning are the same as allergy symptoms at any other time of the day. However, sometimes morning allergy symptoms are more severe. They may include:

  • Sneezing
  • Runny or stuffy nose
  • Fatigue
  • Itchy, watery eyes
  • Puffy eyes
  • Itchy ears
  • Cough

In severe cases, you may experience asthma-like symptoms. These may include difficulty breathing, wheezing, and coughing.

Cats and Asthma Attacks

Cats can trigger a severe asthma episode in up to 30% of people with existing asthma.

Diagnosis of Morning Allergies

Doctors diagnose allergies based on your symptoms and tests that confirm an allergic reaction. Morning allergies are diagnosed when your symptoms present most prominently in the morning. Diagnosis may include:

  • Medical history: Your primary care doctor or an allergist (a doctor specializing in allergies and allergy-induced asthma) will take your medical history, including whether you have a family history of allergies or asthma. The doctor will also do a physical exam.
  • Assessing symptoms: Your doctor will evaluate your symptoms, including what triggers them and when they most often occur.
  • Allergy tests: This may include skin tests, blood tests, or both.

Skin Tests

Skin tests are considered the gold standard for determining what a person is allergic to. These tests are done in an allergist’s office. The two types of skin tests are:

  • Scratch test: Drops of an allergen are scratched onto the skin, and then the location is observed for a reaction.
  • Intradermal test: A small amount of an allergen is injected under the skin, and then the location is observed for a reaction.

Blood Tests

With a blood test, a phlebotomist draws your blood, and a lab professional evaluates it. They specifically look for immunoglobulin E (IgE) antibodies in response to allergens.

IgE is a type of antibody that is produced when someone is sensitized to an allergen. A specific IgE test can identify what you are allergic to.

Ways to Prevent Morning Allergy Triggers

The good news is that there are steps you can take to limit your morning allergy symptoms. Some things to try include:

  • Keep windows closed: When pollen counts are high, close windows and use air-conditioning instead.
  • Take allergy medicine: When taken before exposure to pollen, antihistamines can keep your allergy symptoms at bay.
  • Shower before bed: Showering will remove pollen from your skin and hair. Be sure to put on clothing that has not been exposed to allergens before getting into bed, too.
  • Lower humidity: This can help reduce dust mite allergies and indoor mold allergies.
  • Clean regularly: Cover your mattress and pillows with special dust mite covers and wash your bedding in hot water every week. In addition, dust hard surfaces and vacuum carpets, especially those in the bedroom.
  • Replace carpet with hard flooring: Pet dander and dust mites love to hide in carpets. If you can’t replace all carpets in the home, start with the one in your bedroom.

When to Seek Professional Treatment

Often, morning allergies are a mild, sometimes seasonal, nuisance. Other times, they are more severe. In that case, making an appointment with your doctor is important.

If lifestyle adjustments and over-the-counter (OTC) antihistamines don’t help, you may want to see your doctor for a formal diagnosis and treatment plan. Your doctor may recommend intranasal corticosteroids, some of which are available over the counter.

Immunotherapy (known as allergy shots) can also help control allergies when it is difficult to avoid triggers. Your allergy doctor will formulate these to help desensitize you to allergens. They are especially useful against the common triggers of morning allergies.

Immediate Medical Attention

If you ever have asthma-like symptoms, such as wheezing, coughing, or difficulty breathing, seek medical attention right away.  

Summary

Allergy symptoms experienced in the morning may be due to pollen, dust mites, pets, or mold. An allergy specialist can help identify the source of your allergy and recommend lifestyle adjustments and medications that may help manage it.

A Word From Verywell

If you are looking for relief from morning allergies, there are some things you can do. Identifying the source of your allergy is an important place to start.

Often, people can take an educated guess about what they are allergic to based on when their symptoms appear and what triggers them. However, the only definitive way to identify your allergy is through allergy testing.

You may be able to reduce your morning allergy symptoms by cleaning your bedroom and bedding often, using dust mite covers for pillows and bedding, showering before bed, removing carpet from your bedroom, and keeping your windows closed at night.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can my morning allergies be cured?

Allergies, including those that present with symptoms in the morning, can sometimes be cured by using allergy shots. Morning allergies can be managed with lifestyle changes, by avoiding allergens, and with medication.

Do morning allergies cause headaches and other symptoms?

Yes, sinus headaches and migraines have been associated with allergies. That's because allergies can cause swelling in the sinus cavities, leading to pain and pressure.

How long will my morning allergies last?

The length of time morning allergies last depends on what is causing them. If, for instance, your morning allergies are caused by a seasonal pollen allergy, then your morning allergies should subside when the pollen counts go down. In addition, you can manage your symptoms by avoiding triggers or taking OTC or prescription medication.

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11 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.
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