What Is the Link Between Seasonal Allergies and Low Mood?
According to many allergy experts and doctors, seasonal allergies may have a significant impact on a person’s mood. Affecting about 36 million Americans, seasonal allergies may cause symptoms that are not just annoying but can actually lead to serious mood-related disorders in some people. Thus, research has shown that people with allergies, especially those that have been seen by an allergist, are more likely to develop depression. However, this doesn’t mean that allergy is a potential cause of clinical depression. Instead, doctors believe that it’s rather a common trigger of mild emotional and physiological depressive symptoms like sadness, tiredness, fatigue and low energy. On the other hand, if a person has already been diagnosed with clinical depression, allergy will likely make the symptoms worse.
Speaking about the cause of allergy-related mood changes, there are various theories. Some people tend to blame antihistamines and other allergy meds, while others believe that the changes are triggered by the allergy itself. Besides, there may also be external factors like sleeping problems, stress and general discomfort.
Is There Any Biological Connection Between Allergies and Depression?
An allergic reaction occurs when your immune system responses to a trigger, releasing protein molecules called cytokines that are used in communication between the cells. Once their signal gets to the brain, you will likely develop the feeling of sickness and mental drainage, typical for conditions like the flu. While the symptoms caused by allergy-related cytokine release may not be as serious as in other conditions, they can still lead to significant discomfort.
Based on a study published in 2002, allergic reactions triggered by ragweed pollen can lead to noticeable mood changes and fatigue. Another research made in 2000 found the reactions of this type might also lead to slower cognitive processing.
Moreover, associated between suicidal tendencies and allergies was studied in a review published in 2008. The review found that there was a peak in suicide rates during the period from April to June, which is also the peak season of tree pollen – one of the most common seasonal allergy triggers. In addition, connection between depression, suicide and seasonal allergies was found to be stronger in women. Interestingly, allergies occur more commonly in women, as well.
The same research group also studied the cytokines as a possible trigger of fatigue and concluded that allergy-induced reactions may lead to depression and other mood changes.
Therefore, there may actually be a biological reason why you may feel especially low during high allergy season.
Mood Swings Caused by Allergy Meds
It is also possible that you experience irritations, sadness and other mood changes only occasionally, as a result of constant sneezing or side effects of certain allergy treatments.
Research shows that allergy symptoms can influence your performance at school or at work. If you also take into account the sleeping problems that typically affect people with allergies, in a long term, this all may result in more severe depressive symptoms.
Thus, even experts that don’t believe in the direct connection between allergies and depression, admit that allergies can significantly worsen existing depression, as well as that allergies do affect your mood.
In particular, children with allergies are more likely to develop irritation, changes in mood and behavior, as their bodies are weaker and more sensitive. For instance, some children suffering from allergies tend to have temper tantrums more frequently and they may also experience troubles sleeping.
Speaking of allergy medications, some of them, such as antihistamines, may cause problems with sleeping, drowsiness and dizziness. Antihistamine medications help to reduce sneezing caused by an allergic response. Most of them, including Allegra, Claritin, and Zyrtec, are available over the counter. There are also antihistamines combined with decongestants, which have a higher price. Experts warn that the chemicals contained in these medications may also cause insomnia, affect your heart and lead to problems with prostate in men.
Knowing that your allergies can be the cause of your low mood may help feel less stressed out. However, it’s not a good idea to blame allergies for your mood swings. Instead, you should try to find ways to relax and reduce your irritation.
How Can You Improve Your Allergy Symptoms?
Unfortunately, there is no way to cure your allergy. However, you can still find relief using various allergy treatments (such as pills, nasal sprays, eye drops, creams, inhalers and allergy shots) available over the counter and by prescription.
The majority of allergy meds can be divided into two categories: antihistamines and steroids. As stated in their name, antihistamines work by blocking the effect of histamine – a chemical released by the immune system as a result of an allergic reaction. Steroids are commonly used to reduce allergy-induced inflammation.
There are also decongestant medications (e.g. pseudoephedrine) that help to treat nasal and sinus congestion.
If you are in favor of more natural remedies, you can treat your sinus problems using neti pot with saline water and other nasal rinses.
However, all the treatment mentioned above provide rather a short-term allergy relief. If you to need a prolonged effect, experts recommend that you perform allergy testing and undergo immunotherapy course (allergy shots). This involves administration of microscopic allergen doses under the skin during the period of three-five years. Once you complete this treatment course, you will be protected from allergic reactions for another three to five years, but this is just on average. Sometimes, the allergy relief may last for just one or two years, while some people may never develop an allergic reaction again.