Stress and Allergies: Can Stress Worsen Your Allergy Symptoms?
Spring allergies may cause a whole range of annoying symptoms. Sneezing every two seconds, coughing, while taking care of your runny nose and watery eyes and suffering from a sore throat can be quite a tough experience. Allergies are well known to affect the quality of life, which in many cases, leads to stress in patients and their close ones. However, there is an even bigger problem. According to experts, there is a deeper connection between stress and allergies. Thus, increased stress levels are considered worsen your allergic symptoms.
What’s an Allergic Reaction?
An allergic reaction occurs when your immune system overreacts to a normally harmless foreign substance in an attempt to protect your body. In some people, such reactions may be triggered by various things, including tree or plant pollen (see pollen allergies). Allergy-inducing substances are known as allergens. Thus, whenever you are exposed to an allergen, your immune system produces chemicals leading to allergy symptoms. The severity of these symptoms depends on the intensity of your immune system’s reaction.
How Does Stress Affect Allergies?
Stress often has a negative impact on your health, and it can also worsen your allergy. Stress can affect you in two ways: psychological and physical.
Psychological effect involves your emotional condition as a result of dealing with allergy symptoms. If you are stressed, you are likely to be more bothered and irritated by your symptoms. According to specialists, feeling stressed may sometimes make you feel as if everything in your life is just bad, including your health.
Physical effect of the stress response is associated with stress hormones. According to specialists, stress hormones can intensify your immune system’s reaction to allergens. However, the exact mechanism of action is not clear. Therefore, people who are under stress may experience worse allergy symptoms than normally.
Physical Effect of Stress Response
In general, stress response is not a bad thing. We experience stress, when our brain feels some kind of danger. As a result, the adrenal glands receive the alert to produce stress hormones, which can lead to high blood pressure, tachycardia, and constricted blood vessels in an attempt to supply more blood to your brain and muscles. You are also likely to start breathing more quickly, which can help to get oxygen to the muscles. In addition, your energy levels get boosted due to the fat and sugar sent into the bloodstream.
In some cases, stress may be necessary, as it helps to overcome a difficult situation. However, repeated stress response may contribute to the development of more serious conditions, like depression, anxiety, heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, and others. Severe allergies may also result from the never-ending stress.
How Do You Treat Allergy Symptoms?
To start with, allergic disorders are incurable. However, you still may ease your symptoms using some over-the-counter or prescription medications.
For instance, nasal symptoms, such as runny or stuffy nose, and sneezing, can be reduced with a corticosteroid nasal spray. You can use mometasone furoate (Nasonex) or fluticasone propionate (Flonase), both of which are available over the counter. In addition, these sprays can help to stop inflammatory chemicals that tend to cause an allergic reaction from getting into your nasal passages. Doctors recommend using a spray every day. It may take about one to three weeks before you notice the significant improvement in your symptoms.
Medications known as antihistamines are also commonly used in allergy treatment. The mechanism of action of this medicine is based on preventing a body chemical histamine from causing allergy symptoms.
Speaking about the side effects of allergy meds, some older types of antihistamines, such as diphenhydramine or Benadryl, have shown to cause drowsiness and problems with coordination. However, newer forms of antihistamines, including azelastine (Astelin) and olopatadine (Patanase), can help with your symptoms without causing sedative side effects.
If you have watery eyes, specialists recommend using antihistamine eyedrops. You doctor may prescribe olopatadine (Patanol), or you can also find a medication ketotifen (Zaditor) that’s available over the counter.
Yet, the best way to prevent the allergy symptoms is to avoid the triggers. For example, you can reduce your exposure to outdoor allergens by wearing a mask when working in the yard, staying indoors when pollen levels are high, keeping your windows closed, as well as regularly cleaning your air conditioning system.
Another thing you can do to minimize the symptoms is to reduce stress levels, which can improve your quality of life a lot. It is not clear whether this can directly affect physical allergy symptoms, but inflammatory diseases are considered to involve some kind of a mind-body connection. Thus, limiting your exposure to stress factors will decrease stress hormone levels in your body, and is likely to alleviate the allergic reaction.
How to Control Your Stress Levels?
Exercising, especially cardio, is one of the most effective ways to control stress. There are also a number of studies showing that inducing the relaxation response can help to reduce the levels of the stress hormone cortisol, due to balanced blood pressure, heart rate, oxygen consumption, and adrenaline levels. You can achieve such a response through meditation, yoga, tai chi, as well as deep breathing exercises.
Since stress is considered to contribute to your disease, it is important that your allergy treatment methods include stress reduction. While stress reduction alone will not automatically ease your allergy symptoms, it can still do an important part of the job.