As the allergy season begins, so do the symptoms – with a dry mouth being a common symptom experienced by many seasonal allergy sufferers. Take proactive steps with these tips and remedies.
Understanding the connection between allergic reactions and dry mouth can help identify the underlying cause. But more importantly, it can help you implement good oral hygiene and maintain the health of your mouth.
The most significant steps to take when your allergy causes dry mouth are:
- Keeping hydrated
- Being consistent with your oral hygiene
- Seeing a healthcare provider if you develop a bacterial throat infection (often noticed by bad breath and a sore throat)
This article will discuss how seasonal allergies can cause dry mouth, how to treat symptoms with self-care and home remedies, how to prevent additional dental problems or severe medical conditions, and when to see a healthcare provider.
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How Does An Allergy Cause Dry Mouth?
Allergies occur in your body when your immune system reacts to foreign substances like:
- pet dander
- dust mites
- foods that don’t cause a reaction in most people
Antibodies (chemicals released by cells) are produced to tell your body that an allergen is harmful – even though it isn’t.
When you come in contact with that allergen again in the future, your immune system reacts and can cause inflammation in your skin, sinuses, airways, or digestive system.
Inflammation in your sinuses and airways produces uncomfortable symptoms, which can be mild to severe. Another name for inflammation of the nasal passages is called rhinitis.
Seasonal allergies, also called allergic rhinitis or hay fever, contribute most to dry mouth.
Common symptoms of allergic rhinitis include postnasal drip (that feeling when mucus is draining from your sinuses down the back of the throat).
Other symptoms of seasonal allergies can include:
- Runny nose
- Stuffy nose
- Watery eyes
- Dry eyes
- Itchy eyes, nose, or roof of the mouth
- Itchy throat
Why Do Seasonal Allergies Cause Dry Mouth?
There are two causes for dry mouth symptoms if you have allergies:
First, when your body responds to allergies, excess mucus collects in the airway, which tends to cause nasal congestion and more mouth breathing.
Constantly breathing through your mouth can cause a feeling of dry mouth or dry throat. Unfortunately, the second cause of dry mouth is the common side effects of treating allergy symptoms (most notably the postnasal drip) with allergy medication.
Antihistamines reduce histamine levels, a chemical that causes allergy symptoms. More specifically, antihistamines block a neurotransmitter (acetylcholine) involved in saliva production, which can create a noticeable lack of saliva in your mouth.
These medications also cause nose and throat dryness; some antihistamines are more likely to cause dry mouth than others.
It’s important to note that antihistamine ingredients can be in over-the-counter and prescription medications. Therefore, if you seek professional medical advice, be sure to share that you are taking an over-the-counter medication in case it contains antihistamine ingredients.
There are other allergy medicine options to treat allergies, and they include:
However, if you have high blood pressure or other medical conditions, read the label carefully or consult your primary care provider before taking them.
Common Allergens and Dry Mouth
The most common cause of allergic rhinitis is pollen. Other culprits include:
- Flowering plants (including ragweed)
- Tree pollen
The amount of allergen in the air can impact whether you experience seasonal allergy symptoms.
Generally, there is more likely to be a lot of pollen in the air on hot, dry, windy days. Conversely, pollen is typically washed to the ground on cool, damp, rainy days.
Oral Health Problems Associated with Dry Mouth
In addition to the general discomforts of having a dry mouth, namely the annoying feeling of being thirsty and having difficulty speaking and swallowing, some oral health issues can result from a dry mouth.
Can An Allergy Cause Dry Mouth and Bad Breath? Yes!
Having a dry mouth can lead to bad breath.
While this condition can be embarrassing in your social, professional, or personal interactions, it can also negatively impact other areas of your daily life. For example, having bad breath can affect the taste of food and drinks.
Allergies create a lot of mucus draining from your sinus cavities into the back of your throat. The bacteria in the mucus can cause a scratchy throat and eventually become a throat infection. In addition, the bacteria in the infection can give off an unpleasant odor that comes out of your mouth when you breathe and talk.
Unfortunately, no amount of brushing or flossing will help because the source of the odor is the bacterial infection, not the teeth or gums.
To eliminate the odor, you must treat the infection with an antibiotic (so you must see your healthcare provider).
How to Minimize Bad Breath During Allergy Season
You can do some things to minimize your bad breath while treating the infection.
Gargling with warm salt water can soothe your throat, rinse away food particles and cavity-causing bacteria from your oral cavity, and sometimes relieve canker sores you may have developed in response to the stress of the infection. In addition, adding salt to warm water may reduce the bacteria thanks to the antibacterial properties of the salt.
You can also try using mints and chewing gum to reduce the odor.
Can an Allergy Cause Dry Mouth and a Sore Throat? Yes!
A dry mouth with your allergies can lead to a sore throat. But it’s likely a combination of the following that is causing your sore throat:
- Your allergy symptoms, especially a postnasal drip.
- Dry air from constant mouth breathing while dealing with your allergy symptoms.
- A bacteria infection in your throat.
- The dry mouth itself.
Keeping your throat moistened with throat lozenges and frequent sips of water or fluid can be helpful, but the best way to relieve your sore throat is by treating throat infections if it is present.
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Can an Allergy Cause Dry Mouth and Dental Health Problems? Yes!
A dry mouth due to reduced saliva production (due to your allergies) can increase your risk for tooth pain, sore gums, and dental cavities.
While you won’t be able to relieve the odor of a bacteria infection in your throat, good oral hygiene may prevent dental health problems.
- Brush your teeth regularly (at least twice a day) and thoroughly.
- Brush or clean your tongue after brushing.
- Rinse your mouth with mouthwash for dry mouth to keep it moist. (The proper mouthwashes contain xylitol and can be very effective. Mayo Clinic recommends Biotene Dry Mouth Oral Rinse or Act Dry Mouth Mouthwash.)
Your doctor or dentist may recommend various products to moisturize or lubricate your mouth. These may be prescription or over-the-counter mouth rinses, artificial saliva, or moisturizers.
To protect your dental enamel, your dentist may also fit you for fluoride trays worn overnight (you fill them with fluoride daily). Another option might be the weekly use of an antibacterial agent, usually a chlorhexidine rinse, to protect you from developing dental caries.
How to Prevent Dry Mouth Caused By Allergies
While allergy symptoms typically reside in as little as 2-4 weeks, the symptoms can be uncomfortable. Thankfully, several simple lifestyle tips and home remedies exist to treat or prevent dry mouth.
One of the most important things you can do when you have a dry mouth is to stay hydrated. So, of course, the most common way is drinking plenty of water.
But there are many effective self-care activities and home remedies to treat or prevent dry mouth, which include:
- Take frequent sips of water each hour (in addition to drinking several glasses of water daily).
- Swab your mouth frequently with a mouth sponge soaked in water or moisturizing mouthwash.
- Cut up some fresh fruit to put in your water.
- Place a small piece of fresh fruit on your cheek.
- Avoid specific foods that have high sodium levels (like hot dogs, lunch meat, etc.) or spicy foods that may worsen your dry mouth symptoms or cause excess reflux (especially if you have gastroesophageal reflux disease).
- Maintain your oral hygiene routine.
- Rinse your mouth with water after eating.
When to See a Healthcare Provider for Treatment of Dry Mouth
It’s time to see a healthcare provider when your allergy symptoms interfere with your normal activities.
More specifically, it’s a good idea to seek professional medical attention if your allergy or dry mouth symptoms begin:
- Disrupting your sleep
- Preventing you from performing your daily activities
- Affecting your performance at work or school
Your healthcare provider may change or adjust the dose of your medication, causing your dry mouth, or they may switch you to another type of medication that doesn’t cause dry mouth.
Another option may be that your doctor discusses trying prescription drugs that stimulate saliva production. Examples of these medications include pilocarpine (Salagen) or cevimeline (Evoxac).
Additionally, they may talk to you about getting allergy tests performed with an allergy specialist to see if you are a candidate for allergy shots or allergy drops (placed under the tongue), which may prevent your annoying allergy symptoms in the future.
Frequently Asked Questions – Allergy Cause Dry Mouth
Can allergies cause other health issues?
Yes, having allergies are associated with:
- Having high blood pressure
- Snoring and Sleep Apnea
- Having dry eyes
- Getting a stye
- Increasing with menopause
Is Sinus Pain Common With Seasonal Allergies?
Sinus pain is another common issue when you have seasonal allergies, and it can cause pain in your face. This is because the maxillary sinuses are the largest in your face and above your mouth.
As mucus increases, sinus pressure in the sinus cavity also increases, which can push down the roots of your upper molars. This may create sensitivity to hot or cold food, and the pain may shift when you move in different positions.
If you notice the toothache is relieved with antihistamines, the tooth pain may be allergy related.
But if it persists after your other allergy symptoms disappear, or the tooth pain is not in your upper molars, talk to your dentist. Tooth decay or gum disease may be causing the pain.
Can Medications (Other than Antihistamines) Affect Salivary Glands?
Indeed, other common medications can have a negative impact on your saliva gland production, which produces less saliva in your mouth, causing a dry mouth. These drugs include:
- Pain medications
- Dietary supplements
- Acid reducers
- Anticholinergics (used to treat urinary incontinence, heart disease, etc.)
In conclusion, there is a connection between having a dry mouth and experiencing sinus irritation, postnasal drip, and other symptoms of allergies that interfere with producing enough saliva.
But the good news is that most people can find relief from a dry mouth with simple self-care activities and home remedies.
However, if those interventions aren’t effective, seeing a healthcare provider can open up even more relief options through various prescription medication options to help you feel more comfortable.
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Lisa Kimrey is a 30-year veteran registered nurse, speaker, and author of the Bible study, The Self-care Impact: Motivation and Inspiration for Wellness. At Mylifenurse, Lisa writes about simple ways to care for yourself to stay happy, healthy, and rejuvenated while you serve and care for others. Combining her years of nursing expertise with Scripture-based encouragement, Lisa shows readers easy ways to begin and maintain their self-care journey – without feeling guilty. Be sure to grab your FREE Self-care Starter Guide!