Yes, it’s that time of year again. The time when green trees and blooming flowers signal the start of spring…and for some, the onset of seasonal allergies. This begs the question: Can stress cause allergy flare-ups?Allergies are sometimes dismissed as just a “minor annoyance” or a “fact of life” — but they rack up big medical expenses around the country, and a new study shows that feeling stressed can be linked to allergy flare-ups. Let’s see what that means for you.
First, some numbers. Allergies affect about 40 million Americans and end up costing more than $1 billion in medical costs each year. Ouch. Seasonal allergies can have all sorts of causes (tree pollen, grass, ragweed…), and symptoms can include:
- Itchy, watery eyes
- A runny nose
- Sneezing or coughing
- Dark undereye circles
So, can stress cause allergy flare-ups?? A recent study published in the Annals of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology found a link between allergy flare-ups and people perceiving higher stress levels.
For the 12-week study, 179 university employees answered ongoing questions about their stress levels, mood, possible signs of depression and allergy symptoms. They also gave saliva samples to check for the stress hormone cortisol over two 14-day periods.
Almost 40 percent of people showed allergy symptoms, meaning more than one flare-up. There was no direct link between cortisol levels and flare-ups, but instead, people who indicated they felt stressed tended to show more symptoms. Nearly two-thirds of the “high-stress” study participants had five or more flare-ups during the 14-day periods. That’s significant.
So what do researchers conclude? Kicking stress won’t prevent allergies, but feeling calmer or being in a more positive mood can help lessen the symptoms when allergies do attack. An interesting side note: researchers found that, for some people, stress sometimes stemmed from the allergy symptoms themselves.
If you notice allergy symptoms — or if your allergy symptoms change — then we recommend checking in with your doctor. Although most allergies develop by age 20, it’s possible for them to set in (or change) in the adult years, too. We’re here if you want to discuss.
And in the meantime, lowering stress is a good idea for health in general. Whether you tackle stress by exercising, finding new ways to manage time, eating healthier foods or taking daily breaks just to sit peacefully, we wish you a calm (and allergy-free!) spring season.