In people with pulmonary hypertension (PH), treating seasonal allergies can be tricky. This can be due to a number of reasons, including allergy symptoms being worsened by the condition and complications from PH medications.
Pulmonary hypertension is high blood pressure caused by impacted blood flow through the lungs and the right side of the heart. In pulmonary arterial hypertension and chronic thromboembolic pulmonary hypertension, the pulmonary arteries in the lung are specifically impacted. The condition can cause symptoms such as:
Chronic pulmonary heart disease, which can arise as a complication of prolonged damage caused by lung disease and PH, can also potentially cause respiratory problems.
Seasonal allergies, also called allergic rhinitis, cause common symptoms such as a runny nose, itchy eyes, sneezing, a scratchy throat, and coughing. Due to the impact of allergies on airways, there is evidence that allergic rhinitis is linked to worsening of PH symptoms.
Some of the symptoms caused by PH itself, including dry cough and shortness of breath, are also similar to those caused by allergies.
“I have sinus problems, breathing issues, and I’m hurting all over,” said one member.
“Had a sinus headache all day. Was very fatigued,” said another.
“I have mild asthma related to my allergies that has been bothering me for quite a while,” explained another member.
To prevent heart failure, PH must be treated promptly. However, some medications designed to treat symptoms of PH have known side effects that mimic allergy symptoms, such as nasal congestion. These medications include endothelin receptor antagonists like Tracleer (bosentan), Letairis (ambrisentan), and Opsumit (macitentan), as well as phosphodiesterase 5 inhibitors like Revatio (sildenafil).
One myPHteam member was perplexed about a “chronic stuffy nose, cough, and shortness of breath after four months on sildenafil.”
Another member complained of “sinus problems, allergies, and congestion” from their medication.
“Been coughing a lot lately,” reported another member.
Another responded, “Could be a symptom of PH — it was one of the first questions I was asked during my diagnosis.”
Contact your health care provider immediately if you have persistent breathing problems or dizziness.
Identifying seasonal allergy triggers starts with allergy testing. Nasal corticosteroids, sold over the counter as Claritin (loratadine), Zyrtec (cetirizine), or Allegra (fexofenadine), are first-line medicines for reducing inflammation in the nasal cavities, followed by antihistamines.
As one myPHteam member bluntly put it, “Ugh! Pollen through the roof! Allergies kicking in — miserable!”
People with PH are advised to follow a few tips to help make allergy season more manageable:
Medications such as antihistamines may help manage allergy symptoms in people living with PH. Be sure to consult with your doctor before starting or changing allergy medications.
On myPHteam, the social network for people with pulmonary hypertension and their loved ones, more than 37,000 members come together to ask questions, give advice, and share their stories with others who understand life with pulmonary hypertension.
Are you dealing with allergies and pulmonary hypertension? Share your experience in the comments below, or start a conversation by posting on your Activities page.