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ACAAI > Patients & Public > Asthma > Symptoms

Self-Medicating During Allergy Season can Lead to Mental Impairment

Undiagnosed and undertreated conditions increase risk for other health complications

ARLINGTON HEIGHTS, ILL. (April 22, 2013) – Seasonal allergies and asthma may not seem like anything serious. But when these conditions are misdiagnosed and not properly treated, can lead to disrupted sleep and mental impairment.

“When patients begin to sniffle and sneeze in the spring months, they assume they are just one of the millions of Americans that suffer from seasonal allergies,” said allergist Kevin McGrath, MD, fellow of the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology (ACAAI). “This form of self-diagnosis and treatment greatly increase the risk of disturbed sleep and further health complications. Sufferers should see a board-certified allergist for proper diagnosis and treatment.”

Many sufferers seek over-the-counter relief when allergy and asthma symptoms strike. But many don’t realize this can also be a bad habit. According to the ACAAI, over-the-counter (OTC) medications, such as decongestants and first generation antihistamines, can cause sleep disruption and mental impairment, including:

  • Decreased decision-making
  • Irritability
  • Increased risk of motor vehicle accidents
  • Memory impairment
  • Impaired eye-hand coordination
  • School and work injuries
  • Fatigue
  • Activity limitation

Misdiagnosed and undertreated seasonal allergy and asthma symptoms can also lead to sleep apnea, which can progress into life-threatening cardiac issues.

“Sleep apnea can lead to significant cardiac problems, such as increased risk of a heart attack, congestive heart failure, stroke, and diabetes,” said Dr. McGrath. “When the body’s oxygen supply is limited due to congestion or wheezing, there is an increased risk for putting strain on the heart.”

The earlier allergy and asthma are diagnosed and treated by an allergist, the better sufferers will feel and the less risk they have for other health complications.

“Allergies and asthma are serious diseases that, when properly diagnosed and treated, can be effectively managed,” said allergist Richard Weber, MD, ACAAI president. “Anyone with allergies and asthma should be able to feel good, be active all day and sleep well at night. No one should accept less.”

ACAAI allergists will be holding free asthma and allergy screenings at about 100 locations nationwide. Those that believe they have symptoms of one of both conditions can locate a screening in their area by visiting www.acaai.org/nasp.

About ACAAI

The ACAAI is a professional medical organization of more than 5,700 allergists-immunologists and allied health professionals, headquartered in Arlington Heights, Ill. The College fosters a culture of collaboration and congeniality in which its members work together and with others toward the common goals of patient care, education, advocacy and research. ACAAI allergists are board-certified physicians trained to diagnose allergies and asthma, administer immunotherapy, and provide patients with the best treatment outcomes. For more information and to find relief, visit www.AllergyandAsthmaRelief.org. Join us on Facebook, Pinterest and Twitter.