As soon there’s even a hint of springtime, I start my day with a nasal spray. And while it makes a bit of a difference for my congestion, it does nothing about the general fogginess and exhaustion that accompany my allergies. So I stopped to think: Does coffee help with seasonal allergies? Yes, it does, says immunologist Purvi Parikh, MD—and its benefits go beyond just fighting exhaustion and brain fog.
“Caffeine helps with sleepiness as we all know, but it can also help with congestion,” says Dr. Parikh. “With allergies, you get inflammation and congestion of your blood vessels, and then you get inflammation in your nose, too, because basically your nose is blocked up from the allergic reaction. And the same thing happens in your head. You’re basically feeling the congestion in your sinuses, in your head, and that can make people feel tired and fatigued.”
Caffeine is especially helpful when taken with other allergy medicines, especially the kind that make you drowsy, says Dr. Parikh.
“Most allergy pills are antihistamines that make you sleepy. They help with symptoms, but a side effect of Benadryl, Claritin, Zyrtec, and Xyzal, among others, is drowsiness,” says Dr. Parikh. “Your allergies [can be] causing the fatigue, but then ironically, it could also be the medication you’re taking. And if that’s the case, work with your allergist to find non-drowsy options or topical options, meaning certain nasal sprays, eye drops. Those are a good option if you’re someone who is very sensitive and sleepy from the allergy pills. But the caffeine definitely helps, too.”
Learn more about the benefits of coffee:
The amount of coffee you need to feel the impact on your seasonal allergies depends on your tolerance. As someone who is very sensitive to caffeine, this is music to my ears. “Some people are very sensitive to caffeine. Some people who drink it constantly, are not as sensitive to it,” says Dr. Parikh. “The equivalent of one cup of coffee is plenty for most people.”
Coffee is also full of antioxidants and essential nutrients, like vitamin B5 and manganese. In combination with its anti-inflammatory properties, that’s why it’s a go-to drink for some of the world’s longest-living people.
“The anti-inflammatory effects [are] why they say coffee can help with a lot of other medical problems, too, that are driven by inflammation,” says Dr. Parikh. “There’s some links with coffee preventing dementia and coffee preventing cancers.”
On days when my allergies make me feel particularly foggy, I swap decaffeinated lattes for half-decaf/half-caffeinated cup of coffee. The change definitely improves my focus. Next time you’re depleted by your seasonal allergies, reach for a cup (or an extra cup) of joe.
Here’s how to make boosted coffee, according to an herbalist:
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