Links Between Fatigue And Asthma

I feel fatigue quite a bit. I sort of brush it off to aging. But, a recent survey of asthmatics was done by this site, Asthma.net. The survey results show that fatigue was the most common asthma symptom reported. But it is the least talked about asthma symptom. So, what does this mean? Is fatigue a symptom of asthma? If so, why? Let's investigate links between fatigue and asthma.

So, what's the deal?

You don’t normally hear about fatigue and asthma.

What you normally hear about are wheezing, shortness of breath, coughing, and chest tightness. These are your usual or typical asthma symptoms.

But there are also unusual asthma symptoms. These are symptoms that are sometimes observed by asthmatics. These include things like itchy chin, anxiety, stuffy nose, irritability, moodiness, nasal congestion, grumpiness, and things like that. This category is where I usually lump feeling tired or fatigue.

But, is it time to list fatigue next to the other typical symptoms of asthma? Let’s investigate.

Is fatigue caused by allergies?

About 60% of asthmatics have allergies.1 Researchers found a link between allergies and chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) In fact, studies seem to indicate that 50% of those with CFS also have allergies. So, the link is quite prominent.2-3

CFS is a disorder that causes people to become easily fatigued. It also may cause body aches and pains a headache, joint pain, sore throat, difficulty swallowing, difficulty sleeping, and even depression. 2

If allergies cause CFS, then why? One theory suggests the link may be the overactive immune response. Exposure to allergens triggers an immune response. Chemicals are released into the bloodstream. These chemicals cause inflammation. This inflammation causes those annoying allergy symptoms. These same chemicals may also have the ability to cross the blood-brain barrier. Once in the brain, they may cause changes to the brain. These changes may lead to CFS. 3

So, let’s assume allergies is the cause of fatigue. If this is true, the likely best way to reduce daytime fatigue is to treat the allergies.

Is nocturnal asthma the cause?

Poor sleep habits is another likely cause of fatigue among asthmatics. Many people with asthma report trouble sleeping. Allergies at night-time may be the culprit here. Worsening asthma symptoms may be another culprit. It may be both. If you’re not sleeping well, then you’re likely to feel fatigue during the daytime. Such fatigue can make it difficult to function during the daytime. 4

Let’s assume this is the likely cause of daytime fatigue. The likely solution then would be to develop strategies for reducing nighttime asthma symptoms. In one study, treatment for nighttime asthma reduced daytime fatigue in children with nocturnal asthma. 4

Is the cause something else asthma-related?

Similar to caffeine in coffee, bronchodilators may cause wakefulness. Side effects may also include palpitations, nervousness, and restlessness. If you’re up late due to medicines to treat asthma, this can definitely lead to fatigue during the day. 5

Uncontrolled asthma may lead to nocturnal asthma. So too, I would imagine, would severe asthma. Severe asthma episodes at night may contribute to low oxygen levels. This would surely make a person feel short of breath during the daytime. Low oxygen levels may also contribute to fatigue.

So, these are other things to consider.

What should we make of this?

Well, it does appear that fatigue is more common in asthmatics than traditionally noted in asthma literature. It would definitely be neat to see more studies on links between asthma and fatigue.

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