Waking up with a runny nose every morning - why and what to do.
October 8, 2014 10:45 AM   Subscribe

I moved to the midwest a little over two months ago. Since then, I've been waking up most mornings with allergy-like symptoms - runny nose, sneezy. What gives? Does anyone know what's going on or what I might do about it?

I've lived in a couple different places in that time, in both Iowa and Minnesota, and it happens in both places, so I don't think it's exactly location or house-specific. Different beds, sheets, pillows - I still get it.

It's not terrible, just really annoying. It doesn't wake me up, but it comes on when I wake up and tends to subside after about an hour or so.

It's not really allergy season, but maybe it's an allergy? I've never really had significant allergy issues as an adult.

Does anyone have any advice on what to do about this or what might be going on? It doesn't feel like a doctor thing, but maybe it's a doctor thing?

Thanks everyone.
posted by Lutoslawski to Health & Fitness (22 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: This sounds like an allergy thing. Unless you are living in a community entirely devoid of plantlife, there is some kind of pollen or mold spore at loose, even in the times when it's not one single "allergy season" (the whole idea about allergies having a single "season" is a bit of a misconception, because different plants do different things at different times).

This is exactly how my allergies usually manifest, and a single OTC Claratin once a day does it. A friend with stronger allergies says that Nasalcrom spray and Zyrtec does it. Finding the exact remedy may be trial-and-error, or you could go to the doctor to get a more cut-to-the-chase answer, but yeah, this sounds like allergies.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 10:49 AM on October 8, 2014 [5 favorites]

It sounds like allergies - go to an allergist. I get this sometimes and also have chronic rhinitis. The common thing they give you is Flonase. It really helps.
posted by sweetkid at 10:49 AM on October 8, 2014

Best answer: Yeah just go to an allergist. There was a question yesterday not much different from this one!

Seriously going to an allergist and getting my allergies properly treated changed my life. Even the mildly annoying crap like runny noses every morning can still be caused by an allergy that can still be very easily treated.

The only thing I wish I had done differently in my going-to-an-allergist experience is that I should have done it years sooner.
posted by phunniemee at 10:50 AM on October 8, 2014 [2 favorites]

Does sleeping with the windows open or closed matter?
Does showering at night - including washing your hair make a difference?
Can you try a neti pot or saline irrigation in the evening?

Ragweed? My sister and I both from california always had spring symptoms here - she moved to the midwest and summer for her is horrible.
posted by threesquare at 10:53 AM on October 8, 2014

I'm allergic to something year round. It really gets my eyes so I use Alaway. Other than that, I roll with it.

See an alergist to confirm, but I was shocked to discover the large amounts of flora that set me off.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 11:00 AM on October 8, 2014 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I grew up in the Midwest, moved to New York for ten years, then moved back to the Midwest. I had not had any allergies at all for my whole life, but in the year after returning to the Midwest, I developed an allergy to dust mites.

Rather than trying to use a drawn out process of elimination to deduce what you might be allergic to, go to the allergist, and have them Test for All the Allergens. You will find out if you can reduce exposure to any of your allergens, and get drugs to alleviate your symptoms. (If you're like me, you'll recover a ton of energy, too. Having your immune system be On! High! Alert! against ubiquitous feature of your environment is surprisingly draining.)
posted by BrashTech at 11:02 AM on October 8, 2014 [3 favorites]

Definitely sounds like allergies. Allergy season is year round; mine are primarily active in the fall, unfortunately. Sounds like you may also be in this sad but festively colored boat.
posted by poffin boffin at 11:02 AM on October 8, 2014 [1 favorite]

I bet it goes away after a few good hard frosts. Could be ragweed, this time of year. It could have been something else earlier.

You can see an allergist and they will do tests to tell you what all your are allergic to, but unless it gets worse, the Claritin mentioned above is probably sufficient. One tiny pill per day. Don't buy the name brand — look for jars of generic equivalents that are much cheaper. I get a jar with 300 "Wal-itins" at WalGreens.
posted by beagle at 11:06 AM on October 8, 2014

I have seasonal allergies, but not during the stereotypical spring "allergy season." Mine typically run mid-July to mid-October, with both the exact dates and intensity varying from year to year. Just to reiterate what others are saying, the "season" for seasonal allergies depends on just what it is you're allergic to.
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 11:13 AM on October 8, 2014

Chicago hit a 20 year peak in ragweed counts this year. The extra cold and long winter here messed things up here along with most of the midwest.

If your symptoms slow down after the first frost (probably in the next 2-3 weeks), then you'll know for sure.
posted by JoeZydeco at 11:39 AM on October 8, 2014

I get this (here in New England) but only in the fall - from about the end of August to the first hard frost. I've never been to an allergist, but a dose of Claritin (real Claritin, that you get behind the counter and sign the book for) every *other* day clears it right up.
posted by anastasiav at 11:43 AM on October 8, 2014

Anyway thanks for this askme as it saved me wasting my own, as I've just realized this is the reason behind my 72h long asthma attack this week.
posted by poffin boffin at 11:49 AM on October 8, 2014

Check out this thread.. Although it is oriented toward dust allergies, there are some good general suggestions. Dust allergies are extremely common. Your allergist can confirm. You probably want to minimize your exposure to allergens even if you start using nasal sprays so you may find some of the suggestions useful.
posted by PickeringPete at 12:36 PM on October 8, 2014

Best answer: "It's not really allergy season, but maybe it's an allergy?"

HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA my midwestern nose wants to inform you, IT IS ALLERGY SEASON.

Definitely ragweed season; there's a fall mold season that has something to do with the temperature variations (like there's just as much mold in summer but it stays in the air overnight because it's warm, I guess? and in the fall it falls in the cold nights?); there's also specific molds that like to grow on damp leaves on the ground and can trigger allergy sufferers. Turning on your forced-air heat for the first time can also send lots of delightful allergens that settled in the ducts over the summer into your indoor air.

Fall is always my worst allergy season, as an Illinoisan. The rest of the year I can control it with OTC antihistamines without much trouble but fall I am a miserable snotty allergic mess, with headaches.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 2:11 PM on October 8, 2014 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Oh, also, my doctor started me on Zyrtec OTC at night before bed, which made a big difference for me in terms waking up not feeling like I died in the night (like you, my worst symptoms are when I wake up, and my doctor said that's not uncommon due to how pollens and molds settle in cooler night air). The key was to find a 24-hour/one-a-day allergy drug that made me sleepy rather than wakey so I could take it before bed. I had always just taken something in the morning when I woke up stuffy and sore-throaty; taking it right before sleep has made all the difference in the world. GOOD IDEAS LIKE THIS IS WHY SHE GETS TO BE THE DOCTOR.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 2:16 PM on October 8, 2014 [4 favorites]

I have no idea if this is related in any way, but I've recently gone through some severe sleep deprivation, and I've discovered that after a particularly bad night I wake up with a runny nose (not itchy, no sneezing) for a few hours, and then it clears up.

Any chance you've been extremely sleep deprived?
posted by Cygnet at 3:46 PM on October 8, 2014

Best answer: I just left the Midwest after 3 years, and I'm breathing easier just thinking about it. Dust mites are very prevalent there. My response was bad enough in Michigan that I had to live in a wood-floor bedroom, had to sweep it with a microfibre cloth (so as not to just kick up *more* dust) every 3 days minimum, and had to have an extra set of sheets so I could change them midweek. Occasionally I would wake up in the night and have to sweep/change sheets so I could get back to sleep.

I got allergen covers for the bed and pillows (I think the pillows helped, dunno about the bed), upped my Allegra and Zyrtec intake, and was even then still stuffy. Sudafed killed the stuffiness. (I personally don't do well on Flonase, but many do quite well on prescription steroid nasal sprays; there are also at least two major varieties, one with alcohol in the spray and one without; if you have trouble with one kind, ask your physician for the other).

Dust mites become more abundant in humidity, so changes in precipitation can make them a problem. New allergies can appear later in life, and dust mite prevalence varies across the country, so not having the issue before doesn't rule it out now.

If you try Zyrtec or Claritin, both of them do take some time to build up in the bloodstream so you might not find immediate relief; I've been told Allegra doesn't need that as much (and that fits my experience) but don't have data about it at the ready. Anyhow all 3 are available over the counter and in generics so try them out. If it is an allergy issue, Benadryl will fix it. It will also make you an absolute zombie for the next n hours, so maybe not a long term solution, but will work in a pinch.

And of course best case is figuring out what you're allergic to and then controlling the allergen if you can. If you're me, it's clearly dust, but you aren't, so hopefully you figure out what it is and learn to reduce your exposure.
posted by nat at 5:19 PM on October 8, 2014

Response by poster: Thanks so much everyone; this has been really helpful and eye opening.

I think I better schedule something with an allergist, and in the meantime, I'm gonna try a non-non-drowsy allergy med before bed and see if that helps!

Thanks again! I marked a few best answers, but really, you guys are all the best.
posted by Lutoslawski at 7:07 PM on October 8, 2014 [1 favorite]

Oh yeah, my doctor did say to take the zyrtec religiously for two weeks before making a decision. At first I thought it wasn't helping. Nat has a good point.

I also keep an eye on local allergen forecasts ... The weather channel does them ... At first to figure out what I was really allergic to and now to see if its a good allergy day or a bad allergy day. One of the local news stations texts me an allergy forecast every day with the top three allergens for today with their ppm in the air locally. I find it helpful to have forewarning!
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 7:25 PM on October 8, 2014

Ragweed. I used to get it every fall in the Midwest, too. Cortisone nasal sprays helped me.
posted by persona au gratin at 11:54 PM on October 8, 2014

You might try a HEPA air filter running all night with the doors/windows closed. It's helped me tremendously, and I was able to stop using allergy medications.
posted by argyle dreams at 11:33 AM on October 9, 2014

Zyrtec + Nasacort does the trick for me. I live in the Midwest.
posted by stoneandstar at 11:00 PM on October 10, 2014

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