Can Allergies Make It Hard to Breathe?

It’s not uncommon to be short of breath. We expect it to be hard to breathe after a workout or if we’re climbing a mountain. But shortness of breath can become a long-term concern when the episodes are unexpected. How do you know if these episodes should be something to worry about?

Shortness of Breath and Wheezing

Shortness of breath presents as a tightness in the chest, difficulty breathing, or breathlessness. The “wheezing” sound you sometimes hear during these episodes is generally caused by a physical constriction of the airways restricting the air that can flow in and out.

Can allergies cause this?

Yes. Allergies make it hard to breathe by affecting your respiratory system. This happens in three ways: allergic rhinitis, allergic asthma, and anaphylaxis.

Allergic rhinitis, otherwise commonly known as hay fever, targets your nose and your sinuses, leading to the symptoms generally associated with hay fever: runny and itchy nose, watery eyes, sneezing, and itchy throat. Recent studies have indicated that allergic rhinitis is a more systemic disorder, affecting the entire respiratory tract. Allergies make it hard to breathe as allergic rhinitis restricts the amount of air that can come in, but this does not cause shortness of breath.

Allergic asthma is a type of asthma that is triggered as part of an allergic response. In fact, allergies are the most common trigger for asthma. An asthma attack is closer to what people would call a shortness of breath – muscles in the respiratory tract tighten, the airways swell, and mucus clogs the airways. However, asthma is hard to self-diagnose, as it shares its symptoms with many other conditions. Testing for asthma with a doctor is a multi-step process, but due to the similarity in symptoms with other conditions, it’s common to be misdiagnosed.

Anaphylaxis is the most severe of the three conditions as its effect is not only restricted to the respiratory system. People experiencing an anaphylactic reaction can enter into anaphylactic shock, where blood pressure drops severely, the person experiences difficulty swallowing and breathing, and in severe cases, may even experience unconsciousness. If you know you experience allergies, talk to your doctor to make sure you can have the appropriate treatment ready.

How do allergies make it hard to breathe?

Allergies are caused by your body misidentifying harmless proteins as dangerous and mounting a full immune response the proteins that cause this reaction are called allergens. The allergic response happens when Immunoglobulin E (IgE) binds to both allergens and other cells to release histamine, signaling the start of the immune reaction. When IgE reacts with allergens near the respiratory tract, such as when you breathe in pollen or pet dander, an allergic reaction in the respiratory tract is triggered.

What are the steps to be diagnosed?

You can test at home, or you can go to an allergist to get tested. There are many services that offer at-home testing solutions but do remember that the opinion of a trained professional is crucial when making your healthcare decisions.

How do I manage the symptoms?

Your allergist will typically provide you with medication for your allergies. But if your allergies are milder and you’re looking for simple at-home relief, here’s a couple solutions to look into.

Air purifiers

Air purifiers can remove allergy-causing particles from the air. Look for air purifiers with a HEPA filter and ones that have high CADR to effectively clean your air. You can find out more about selecting an air filter for your allergies on our other blog post.


There are two classes of over-the-counter medication available to buy for allergy relief. Antihistamines and corticosteroids work well against allergic reactions and are available to buy at most pharmacies.

Cat Allergen Neutralizing Spray

If your cat allergies make it hard to breathe, you could try out Pacagen’s Cat Allergen Neutralizing Spray. It’s a reliable way to neutralize any cat’s allergens in the air or on surfaces, while being safe for both the owner and their cat. You can easily incorporate this helpful addition into your cleaning routine.