Allergy-Linked Fatigue May Stem From Nasal Congestion, Interrupted Sleep

July 14, 1998

HERSHEY, Penn. -- New research from Penn State's College of Medicine finds that people with perennial allergies may attribute their daytime fatigue to causes such as the side effects of medications, when, in fact, the fatigue may be a result of nasal congestion and associated sleep fragmentation.

"We treated the subjects with topical nasal corticosteriod. A few sprays on each side improved night time sleep and reduced daytime fatigue," explains the study's lead author, Timothy Craig, D.O., associate professor of medicine at Penn State's College of Medicine.

"Unlike steroids you get by injection or orally, this has very few adverse side effects," adds Craig, also an allergist/immunologist with the Penn State Geisinger Health System.

Approximately 15 to 20 percent of the population in the United States suffer from allergic rhinitis (AR), more commonly known as hay fever. The two-month study involved 20 patients. All the patients were perennial allergy suffers. Subjects with only seasonal allergies, known sleep apnea or other respiratory diseases were not involved in the study. Over the study period, patients completed a daily diary with questions pertaining to the severity of the nasal symptoms, sleep and their response to medication. There were nine questions about the severity of symptoms.

"We found a significant reduction in nasal stuffiness and sleep problems. Simply, if these people can breath easier at night, they have a less interrupted sleep pattern," states Craig. "The subjects' sleep is often interrupted with what we call microarousals. They don't wake up during the night, however, they may complain of being tired as soon as they wake up."

In at least 75 percent of patients, nasal steroids are an effective method of reducing symptoms and are recommended as the first line of medical therapy in adults having AR with nasal congestion, says the Penn State medical researcher.

Craig's research also suggests that the use of nasal steroids during the pollen season for seasonal allergy suffers is an effective treatment.

"We believe that the seasonal allergy patient will get the same benefits as the perennial suffer including improved sleep, nasal symptoms and overall improvement to their quality of life," he says.

Craig and his colleagues' paper titled, "Nasal Congestion Secondary to Allergic Rhinitis as a Cause of Sleep Disturbance and Daytime Fatigue and the Response to Topical Nasal Corticosteroids," was published in the May issue of the Journal Allergy and Clinical Immunology.

Penn State

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