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.

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The Asthma.net team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.
View References
  1. “Allergens And Allergic Asthma,” Asthma And Allergy Foundation Of America,” http://www.aafa.org/page/allergic-asthma.aspx, accessed 9/5/18
  2. Straus, et al., “Allergy And Chronic Fatigue Syndrome,” Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology, May, 1988, https://www.jacionline.org/article/0091-6749(88)90933-5/pdf, accessed 9/5/18
  3. Ansorge, Rick, “Tired? Depressed? It May Be Hidden Allergies,” nbcnews.com, April 8, 2010, http://www.nbcnews.com/id/35932711/ns/health-allergies_and_asthma/t/tired-depressed-it-may-be-hidden-allergies/#.W5Do6GhKjrc, accessed 9/6/18
  4. Fagnano, et al., “Nocturnal Asthma Symptoms And Poor Sleep Quality Among Urban School Children With Asthma,” Academic Pediatrics, Nov. 1, 2012, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3481184/, accessed 8/6/18
  5. Bronchodilators 101: uses and side effects,” Lung Institute, https://lunginstitute.com/blog/bronchodilator-101-uses-side-effects/, accessed 8/6/18

Comments

View Comments (5)
  • sashabear
    2 weeks ago

    I think for me it is pretty simple. I work out a lot due to Osteoporosis. Struggling to breathe all day and during workouts exhausts me. I sometimes fall asleep during the news at 7PM, just for 15 minutes or so. Trying to breathe, plus the anxiety resulting from that struggle IS exhausting day after day.

  • Leon Lebowitz, RRT moderator
    2 weeks ago

    Hi sashabear and thanks for your post. We hear you – it’s not always easy managing this condition. We appreciate your input and sharing your thoughts with the community. Wishing you the best, Leon (site moderator)

  • Shellzoo
    1 month ago

    Great article. Prior to my asthma diagnosis this year I was not able to get through the day without a long nap. I felt horribly fatigued at work too and had dark circles under my eyes. I had my thyroid levels checked and my levels have been stable on meds. I was not even close to being anemic. I was waking up at night with back pain and chest tightness but it was not cardiac. My family complained that I coughed quite a bit but I was not sick. I am on allergy meds but I take them at night. Then I found out I had asthma, started my controller inhaler and other than breathing well, the back pain and chest tightness at night went away. I was sleeping better and I have not needed a nap in ages. There is feeling tired and there is fatigue. That horrible feeling that you can’t keep your eyes open, have no strength and just want to sleep for 2 days is awful. I think there are several reasons for the fatigue but good asthma control is an important step for feeling better. I look forward to seeing how fatigue and asthma correlate in future studies.

  • Lyn Harper, RRT moderator
    1 month ago

    Shellzoo – So glad you enjoyed the article! It really was great. The fatigue you describe is literally debilitating; it’s nearly impossible to get through your day. I’m so happy you finally found the cause of your symptoms and were able to get good treatment.

    Best,
    Lyn (site moderator)

  • Leon Lebowitz, RRT moderator
    1 month ago

    Hi Shellzoo and thanks for your post. We appreciate you sharing your history and how you’ve come to understand better, and manage your condition! Your consistent posts and input are appreciated by the community. Wishing you continued wellness. Leon (site moderator)

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