Stress and allergies

Allergies occur when a person’s immune system overreacts to a harmless foreign substance sending out defensive chemicals such as histamines which create an allergic response.

Allergies are not caused by stress, but stress can make the allergic response worse, and allergic responses can cause stress.

Causes of Allergies

Peanuts, soy, dairy, dust, insect venom, mold, animal dander and pollen are among the most common allergens. They can worsen some medical conditions like eczema and asthma. Allergies can be treated by avoidance diets, medications, or, in serious cases, epinephrine injectors. “Symptoms, such as sneezing, runny nose and watery eyes can cause added stress for allergy sufferers, and may even be the root of stress for some,” noted the lead author of a new study, Dr. Amber Patterson. “While alleviating stress won’t cure allergies, it may help decrease episodes of intense symptoms.”

Allergies and Stress Levels

To test the stress-allergy relationship, researchers from Ohio State University observed 179 volunteers over a12 week period. During this time, 39 percent of participants had more than one allergic response. They found that the group with allergy symptoms had higher stress levels. Although there is no clear causal relationship, many of the people with allergy symptoms did report that their allergies flared up within days of an increase to their daily stress levels. “Stress can cause several negative effects on the body, including causing more symptoms for allergy sufferers,” explained Patterson. “Our study also found those with more frequent allergy flares also have a greater negative mood, which may be leading to the flares.”

Meditating and breathing deeply as well as other coping mechanisms are recommended for people who live with allergies. “Allergy sufferers can also alleviate stress and allergy symptoms by seeing their board certified allergist," said Patterson. " An allergist will help you develop an action plan with ways to avoid allergy triggers and what treatment will be best for your individual needs.”

Source: David McNamee/MedicalNewsToday, Annals of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology

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