Stress can lead to more than sleeplessness and emotional cookie binges. Add sneezing and itchy eyes to the list, researchers say.
In an April 2014 study, allergist Amber Patterson, M.D., and her team at Ohio State University studied the stress and allergy symptoms of 179 male and female allergy sufferers between the ages of 35 and 60. For a total of 28 days, the participants kept a daily online diary to record allergy flares, stressful events, perceived emotional stress and mood. They also provided four saliva samples each day, which the researchers analyzed to determine cortisol levels, a physiological measure of stress. The results revealed a clear correlation: Those participants who reported more stress also reported more allergy flare-ups.Stress is a known trigger for eczema, another autoimmune condition, and can bring on a nasty bout of the itchy-scratchies. The findings paint a similar picture.
Interestingly, it wasn’t that allergies were worst on stressful days. Rather, allergies tended to flare after a particularly stressful week. “We speculate that some people with allergies may have a more sensitive neuroimmunologic trigger in response to persistent stress or higher stress levels in general that could be contributing to more frequent allergy flares,” Patterson explains. She adds that there may be an additive effect of the stress over time.
So, this spring, while you’re arming yourself against the pollen and ragweed, take a look at your lifestyle, too. Are you always stressed out? If so, employ some stress-management techniques, like meditation and yoga, or take a look at the things that are setting you off and reframe them in a more positive light. Then pop your allergy meds, dose with some eye drops and face the world.
READ MORE: Five Surprising Allergy Triggers