Why Are My Allergies So Bad When I Wake Up?


woman sneezing due to morning allergies

If you or a loved one suffers from allergies or hay fever then you probably know that many symptoms are often worse at night or in the morning. This is a common problem and may include itchy eyes, ears, nose, and throat as well as a runny nose with sneezing and/or coughing thrown in the mix. My wife has struggled with morning allergies for years so I did some research to help her and this is what I found out.

Morning allergy symptoms can be caused by a number of factors:

  1. Allergens accumulated in a bed or on pillows can build exposure through the night and cause morning symptoms
  2. Pollen counts are typically higher at night and tend to settle in the morning
  3. Non-allergic irritants may also trigger hay fever symptoms

The goal is to identify exactly what might be causing the allergy symptoms. Once the triggers are targetted, steps can be taken to mitigate the issues. For more information on the cause of morning allergies and what can be done about them, please read on.

Identifying the Root Causes of Morning Allergies

Before steps can be taken to mitigate morning allergies, first we must determine what is your trigger(s). Let’s take a look at the most common culprits we have identified.

1. Allergens in Your Sleeping Area

Our bedding and pillows are susceptible to accumulations of allergens such as dander, pollen, and dust mites. As we lay there sleeping at night, we are transferring those allergens to our bodies and breathing them in as well.

The increased exposures build up over time and when we wake up, they may peak in the morning and cause an allergic reaction. Runny nose, sneezing, coughing, and even severe itching may occur.

2. High Morning Time Pollen Counts

Pollen levels tend to rise during the night and then peak near dawn. Waking up to a super-charged amount of pollen in the air can cause a reaction in those who are susceptible.

Since people often sleep with windows open during the times of the year when plants and trees are in full bloom, the problem can only be exacerbated.

3. Non-Allergic Irritants

There are a number of non-allergic triggers known as irritants which may be to blame. Common morning time fragrances such as perfumes can cause reactions that appear to be from allergens. Also, fireplace smoke or cleaning chemicals can be an issue.

Do any of your loved ones in the house use products that are “perfumy” in the morning? Does anyone light up a morning cigarette or start the fireplace? What about someone doing some morning chores or cleaning? Any of these could cause a reaction.

Taking Action to Prevent Morning Allergies

Once you feel you have identified what the cause of your morning allergies might be, it’s time to do something about it.

1. How to Mitigate Bed-Induced Allergic Triggers

The good news is there is a fairly easy way to reduce your exposure to allergens immediately. Thoroughly wash your bedding, pillowcases, and linens.

You may also want to invest in special allergy bedding which can help block dust mites and other triggers. The covers create an extra barrier between you and the allergens. You may also want to consider buying new fresh pillows.

Make Sure You Don’t Take Allergens to Bed with You

If you shower in the morning, you want to consider changing your routine. Allergens clinging to your body and hair can go to bed with you and, unfortunately, contaminate your sleeping area.

There are a few steps you can take to solve this problem:

  1. Wash right before bed
  2. Have special clothes or pajamas that you wear to bed that is sealed away in a bag in between uses. Wash them often!
  3. Remove anything that can cause allergens from your bed, namely animals. Sorry, Oscar (our cat).
  4. Take away anything that may release allergens into the air such as plants or time-release air fresheners
  5. Invest in a vacuum cleaner that has a HEPA filter

2. How to reduce pollen in your sleeping area

To avoid pollen from outdoors, be sure to shut all of your windows a couple of hours before going to bed. Running an air conditioner with a premium filter can also help.

You may also want to invest in a premium air cleaner to keep the air in your room as free from allergens as possible. I recommend the Hathaspace HEPA air purifier (click to check Amazon price).

3. How to Mitigate Problems with Non-Allergic Irritants in the Air

My most significant bouts with itchy eyes and sneezing have occurred by breathing in the wrong kind of perfume or fragrance. In fact, I can’t walk by a candle shop without sneezing at least once or twice.

Sometimes I wake up in the morning while my wife is getting ready for work, and the door will be open. Whatever fragrance she is spraying wreaks havoc on my sinuses.

Besides perfume, there could potentially be many difference culprits for morning allergic attacks. Here are some ways to mitigate these potential issues:

  • Ask loved ones to lessen the amount/types of perfumes they spray.
  • If you live in a duplex, check to see if your neighbors are smokers. If so, you may need to find a way to stop their smoke from potentially wafting into your living space.
  • If you store or use particular cleaning agents in your bathroom, you will want to investigate milder hypo-allergenic versions. You may also want to store them in a different part of the house.

Try to Figure out What Your Specific Issue Is

I recommend walking around your bedroom and picturing in your mind exactly what the situation is like first thing in the morning.
Take an educated guess on what you think is causing your issues. then proceed and see if you can target the issue and potentially fix your morning allergy problem.

Keep a Diary or Log to Track Morning Allergies

You may be unsure what is exactly causing your morning allergies. I recommend that you keep a notebook handy and write down exactly what is happening each time you have an attack. Here are some questions you might ask:

  • Is there a particular smell in the air? Is there a new scent that you never smelled before? Did you recently switch soaps or perfumes?
  • Are my allergies only flaring up during a particular season? If your morning allergies only happen in the Spring through the early Fall, the biggest culprit may be pollen. Based on the current season you may be able to pinpoint the exact type of pollen bothering you.
  • Were there any recent changes/additions to my bedroom area? Maybe you just got a new pet or someone bought you some new exotic clothes. Sometimes even a slightly different fragrance, soap, or air freshener can cause a huge issue.

What Is the Likely Cause of My Hay Fever or Allergies?

The vast majority of time that people experience allergic symptoms in the morning (or anytime for that matter) it is due to something called allergic rhinitis. This term is synonymous with hay fever.

The exact cause of allergic rhinitis is when your immune system overreacts to allergens that have been breathed into your lungs. Your body attacks the foreign particles which result in a few tell-tale symptoms.

Symptoms of hay fever include:

  • Postnasal drip
  • Runny nose
  • Sneezing
  • Itchy eyes or even itchy ears, nose, or throat

What Causes Allergic Rhinitis?

Common allergens that cause allergic rhinitis are pollen, chemicals, wood dust, dander, and even cockroaches. Less frequently, cereal grains and mold can be the culprit.

Is There a Way to Help Relieve Morning Allergies Fast?

Taking preventative measures that keep morning allergic flareups from happening is the best remedy. However, sometimes it is impossible to avoid the occasional bout with morning allergies. To treat the symptoms, there are severe medical and natural remedies available to you.

What Is the Best Medicine for Allergic Symptoms?

Treating the symptoms of morning allergies is usually done with a few types of medications.

  1. Antihistamines to help stop sneezing and/or postnasal drip
  2. Decongestants to mitigate issues with congestion and nasal stuffiness
  3. Inhaled nasal steroids help with all four symptoms that allergy sufferers deal with. These include sneezing, congestion, itching, and runny nose.
  4. Immunotherapy is usually given in the form of allergy shots. If your allergies are severe you may consider going to this extreme to find relief. My wife was on allergy shots for a year and they made a big positive difference for her.

Are There Any Natural Remedies for Morning Allergies?

There are several natural remedies that can potentially help with morning allergies.

  • Nasal saline rinses performed in the evening before bed can help clear and prevent clogged airways
  • Raising the head of your bed up a few inches can help lessen nasal congestion caused by allergies
  • Inhale steam by holding your head over a bowl of warm water. Hot showers can also have the same effect.
  • Try probiotics which have been shown to help people with allergic rhinitis

What Are the Best Areas to Live for Allergy Sufferers?

Allergies, whether worse in the morning, day or night have even made some people think of relocating. If you decide that you can’t stand it anymore and either need a permanent or temporary change, here are some of the best areas you can go to escape allergies:

  • Any coastal area is likely to result in a reduced incidence of morning allergies. Ocean breezes are known to blow pollen away and salty air can help keep nasal passages clear.
  • Desert areas should not be discounted. Many cities have been built on or near former deserts which have a reduced pollen count year-round. If plants are your problem, deserts might be the answer. Keep in mind that heavy snow areas should also be considered deserts, with much less pollen than many other areas. I guess it all depends on whether you like really hot or really cold weather.
  • Heavy urban areas can be surprisingly good for reducing hay fever in some people. The lack of vegetation reduced pollen. Just be careful of other types of pollution which could make a city a dealbreaker for you.

Final Thoughts

Nighttime and morning allergies are no joke. They can lead to sleep deprivation and a lower quality of health in general. Hopefully, this article has helped shed some light on how to mitigate and remedy the causes of allergies in the AM.

Related Questions

Why do my allergies act up when it rains? During a rainstorm the pollen in the air tends to get soaked and broken up. This actually releases numerous tiny particles into the air and at a much higher concentration.


Is cold air good for a stuffy nose? Cold air is generally not good for a stuffy nose. In fact, cold air can actually stimulate the production of mucus.


Does Benadryl help with pollen allergies? Benadryl is an antihistamine that can relieve the symptoms of allergic rhinitis, no matter the cause. Therefore, Benadryl does help with hay fever that is caused by airborne pollen.

Jim James

Jim James spent most of his childhood outdoors fishing on lakes in his area. Due to his scouting background, he has always been interested in survival, camping, and the outdoors in general. Jim is a best-selling author and has a degree in History, Anthropology, and Music. He lives with his family in Charlotte, NC.

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