STRESS
April 14, 2014

Mind Over Sneezing

Stress makes allergies worse, a study has found, and it may mean that calming the mind can help prevent them.

If you have been suffering this spring allergy season, take note: calming your mind may help calm your nose. People with the most intense allergy symptoms — sneezing, eyes watering, and runny nose — tend to also have the most stress, according to a new study.

“Stress can cause several negative effects on the body, including causing more symptoms for allergy sufferers,” said allergist Amber Patterson, lead author of the study in a statement. “…[T]hose with more frequent allergy flares also have a greater negative mood, which may be leading to these flares.”

While alleviating stress won't cure allergies, it may help decrease episodes of intense symptoms.

The study looked at 179 patients for 12 weeks. Nearly 40 percent had a flare up of allergy symptoms during this time. Among this group, 64 percent had more than four flare-ups over two, 14-day periods. The symptoms didn't show up on the same days participants reported increased stress, but a number of sufferers reported allergy flares within days of increased daily stress.

It's not clear whether stress actually causes a spike in allergy symptoms, or whether it is the other way around. “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,” said Dr. Patterson. “While alleviating stress won't cure allergies, it may help decrease episodes of intense symptoms.”

It is certainly worth trying to reduce stress, since that's good for your health in so many ways. And it may just help reduce the convulsive sneezing and coughing that can make spring a misery for some.

The steps are the same as those for any kind of stress reduction:

  • Try meditating and breathing deeply
  • Avoid coping with stress by smoking or drinking caffeine or alcohol excessively
  • Try to reduce your exposure to things that you suspect may contribute to your stress
  • Make time for fun and relaxation
  • Get enough sleep.

Finally, because allergy symptoms are themselves stressful, allergy sufferers can also alleviate stress and allergy symptoms by seeing an allergist. He or she can help you figure out ways to avoid allergy triggers, as well as prescribe a treatment best suited for your individual needs.

The study is published in Annals of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology.
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