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Anxiety and Stress Make Allergies Worse

Posted by John on August 30th, 2008

Even a slight increase in stress and anxiety can substantially worsen allergic reactions to common allergens, according to a new study from Ohio State University. Anxiety and stress also cause the allergic reaction to last longer.

Anxiety can also trigger late phase reactions which appear hours after exposure to the allergen (typically the next day).

“What’s interesting about this is that it shows that being stressed can cause a person’s allergies to worsen the next day,” explains researcher Janice Kiecolt-Glaser. “This is clinically important for patients since most of what we do to treat allergies is to take antihistimines to control the symptoms – runny nose, watery, itchy eyes, and congestion.”

Antihistimines, however, do not have an effect on next-day symptoms.

“People may be setting themselves up to have more persistent problems by being stressed and anxious when allergy attacks begin,” Kiecolt-Glaser says.

“The results of this study should alert practitioners and patients alike to the adverse effects of stress on allergic reactions in the nose, chest, skin and other organs that may seemingly resolve within a few minutes to hours after starting, but may reappear the next day when least expected,” says researcher Gailen Marshall.

If you experience a severe allergic reaction or an asthma attack, remain calm. Know in advance what to do so that you can act quickly and confidently. Getting stressed out will only make matters worse.

“Allergies are not minor problems,” stresses Kiecolt-Glaser, “A huge number of people suffer from allergies and, while hay fever, for example, is generally not life-threatening, allergy sufferers often also have asthma which can be deadly.”

(Approximately 38 percent of people who suffer from allergic rhinitis also have asthma, and about 80 percent of asthma sufferers have allergic rhinitis.)

Knowledge is power; therefore, as an allergy sufferer, I view this study as good news. I know that I can improve my symptoms by controlling my stress and by avoiding allergens in my environment.

Control Your Stress

Stress doesn’t just make allergies worse; it is also associated with several other diseases like hypertension. Follow these tips to control your stress:

  • Exercise regularly.
  • Try meditation, yoga, or other deep breathing exercises.
  • If you feel yourself getting anxious, take a moment to breathe deeply and relax.
  • Maintain a positive attitude.
  • Get enough sleep.
  • Make time in your schedule for hobbies and other fun activities.

Control Your Environment

You can also relieve allergy symptoms by avoiding allergens in your environment. Here are some easy ways to control your environment and your symptoms:

  • Place allergy bedding on your bed. This will help you get a better night’s rest.
  • air purifiers

  • Place an air purifier in your bedroom to remove airborne allergens.
  • Make sure that your vacuum cleaner has a HEPA filter. If it doesn’t, then it’s just stirring up allergens and not capturing them.
  • Allergens thrive in humid environments. Dehumidifiers remove excess moisture from the air and make it difficult for dust mites and mold to survive.
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