WTF, nose?
July 21, 2010 4:38 AM   Subscribe

YANMD. What's up with this runny nose in the mornings?

Lately, something weird has been going on with my upper respiratory system. On some mornings (not all; more like 50% over the course of a year), I'll wake up feeling fine and with clear passages, but mere seconds after I open my eyes, though, my nose will start to run furiously, with sneezing/itching/running remaining for an hour or two before tapering off later in the morning. This started when I was pregnant, but has persisted for a year-and-a-half afterwards, so I'm guessing it's here to stay. I know it sounds like garden-variety allergies, but there are a number of odd features that make me question how this could be an allergic reaction to anything:

-- As I said, onset of symptoms comes when I wake up, and that's regardless of whether I awaken at 1AM or 7AM. Nothing about my environment has changed from before I open my eyes to afterwards, so why wasn't my nose stuffy before?

-- I've never ever been allergic to anything else before.

-- This isn't a consistent phenomenon, but comes and goes in bouts of ~4-5 days at a time. Considerably more common in the winter. Too frequent to be any sort of upper-respiratory infection. Doesn't appear to correlate with any other changes in the bedroom environment (such as getting fresh sheets).

-- If I hang out in bed later in the day, or even take an afternoon nap, I don't get stuffy at all. It's only in the mornings.

Humidifying our bedroom hasn't done anything, and it seems silly to request big-gun decongestants for such a local problem. But this has been a huge pain, and I would love to know what, if anything, I might be able to change to make it go away. Any ideas? Has anyone dealt with symptoms resembling these?
posted by Bardolph to Health & Fitness (11 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Not an expert, but I've dealt with nature-oriented allergies for my whole life. It could be that you've become allergic to something that releases its pollen/spores/what-have-you at that particular hour. Different plants are active at different times of the day. My allergies, which I previously had to medicate the shit out of with pills and nose sprays every spring and autumn, have been oddly (but awesomely?!) nearly non-existent this year. But mornings were always the worst for me. Except on the occasion when I should take a summertime afternoon nap, because oh my God, those were the times I would wake up to what quickly became non-stop sneezing and weepy eyes and my face became locked in a mid-sneeze sneer until the meds kicked in.

So, time of day can definitely make a difference, and for whatever reason, the allergic events that occurred after sleeping at any point would only really kick in 10-15 minutes after I'd woken.

The fact that the reactions don't diminish in winter seems to implicate something inside your house. Perhaps a hidden mold issue? Maybe a reaction to detergent or fabric softener? Possibly related to pets? Those are the investigative directions I'd start to head in.
posted by hegemone at 5:02 AM on July 21, 2010

I've got no idea what's doing this to you, it sounds bloody annoying though. I sympathise.

If one of my kids has a cold that has them snuffling all night, I put eucalyptus oil in an electric oil burner and leave it on in their bedroom for an hour or so around their bedtime. The smell seems to linger for the night and clears up their stuffiness for 12 hours or more. I swear by the stuff.

Until you can isolate the cause and treat that, I'd have a go at treating the symptom with eucalyptus oil inhalation.

(100,000 koalas can't be wrong. Nasty and stinky, usually, but not wrong.)
posted by malibustacey9999 at 5:15 AM on July 21, 2010

Go check yourself for allergies. My guess would be dust mites. If it is dust mites, the solution that helped me the most was to get mattress and pillow coverings.
posted by pyro979 at 5:26 AM on July 21, 2010

Check for mold. Really, if it's happening only in your bedroom and only after several hours of sleep, that would be the first thing I'd do.
posted by patheral at 5:37 AM on July 21, 2010

It could be your pillows. If they are old or feather-based they could be harbouring a significant population of spores and/or mites, and you may be developing an allergy to these. Why might it not happen to you when napping? For me, I know that when I nap I'm always on my back, so my nose is never in the pillow -- but at night my face inevitably is buried in them. Is this you? There are hypoallergenic pillows as well as pillow covers that can block these allergens from the pillows you have.

Also, if you shower in the evenings, any fragrances from your soap/shampoo will get on your bedclothes and you may be sensitive to them if exposed long-term. So you might want to try unscented bathing products as well.

So: change/sheathe your pillows & take a look at your bath products. Cheap solutions and worth a try!
posted by seanmpuckett at 6:18 AM on July 21, 2010

Hey, you sound like me!

I get tickly/runny noses and bouts of sneezing if my body goes from hot to cold too quickly. Do you keep your room cold at night? If so, maybe transitioning from a warm bed to a cold room in the morning might exacerbate the sneezing.

I bet you also feel like you need to sneeze when you move from the hot indoors to the frigid outdoors.
posted by nikkorizz at 7:04 AM on July 21, 2010

Sounds like allergic rhinitis. Certainly the criteria fits. There is a clinical algorithm for treating this, usually with antihistamines.
posted by onegoodthing at 7:27 AM on July 21, 2010

I was actually going to suggest checking your pillows, too. I've developed allergies to dust and mold, and replacing my old pillows helped CONSIDERABLY.
posted by bibliogrrl at 8:00 AM on July 21, 2010

I have the same thing - I say I am allergic to mornings. I was tested for allergies and found out that I am allergic to dust mites. They sell mattress covers and pillow cases that are meant to block dust mites, and they are supposed to be helpful
posted by elvissa at 9:04 AM on July 21, 2010

Nthing allergies. The reason it happens a minute or two after getting up is that particles that have lodged themselves in the cilia lining your nasal passages are suddenly shaken further down your respiratory tract by the act of you getting up, triggering the allergy.

This happens to me with our cats' fur all the time. And I can't kill the little buggers. They're too sweet and want to snuggle.
posted by pointless_incessant_barking at 1:23 PM on July 21, 2010

Oh, I forgot to say, try a neti pot. Might help flush away the irritants.
posted by pointless_incessant_barking at 1:24 PM on July 21, 2010

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