Allergies are a widespread phenomenon. The Allergy Foundation of America notes that 50 million individuals experience allergies every year.
New research shows that people who have allergies are more susceptible to mental health disorders, including depression and anxiety. Although it’s still being debated, recent studies have found a connection between mental health and allergies that may help patients in the future.
Allergies can have a major negative impact on mental health.
Why are allergies so stigmatized? And how can the medical community change the discussion to avoid stigmatising individuals who suffer?
Seasonal allergy overview:
Allergies are the sixth leading cause of chronic illness in the US, according to the American College of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology.
Allergy symptoms happen when the immune system overreacts to a foreign substance – such as pollen, bee venom, or pet dander. Allergies can develop from environmental or food-based triggers.
This overreaction by the immune system causes a host of symptoms.
Common symptoms of allergies can include:
- Sneezing, coughing, and sniffing
- Runny nose
- Itchy eyes
- Hard breathing, wheezing, and/or shortness of breath
How allergies impact mental health
According to some experts, the inflammatory chemicals that cause allergic reactions in the body may also impact the brain, contributing to poor mental health.
For individuals with mental health conditions, symptoms of an allergic reaction may cause cortisol levels, a stress hormone, to increase.
A clinical trial found that eczema is correlated with a 14% increased risk of depression and a 17% increase in the potential for developing anxiety.
As noted above, allergies involve an external reaction in the body (including coughing, itching, and runny nose). As a consequence of this, over 50% of UK adults that live with allergies avoid social gatherings, which can lead to social isolation and lower overall quality of life.
Additionally, allergy symptoms can impact the body’s sleep cycles, which contributes to fatigue and negative mood.
In the same survey mentioned above, 52% of the people who live with seasonal allergies try to minimise conversation about allergies. The study participants noted that they don’t want to be judged by their loved ones.
It’s also been noted that parents of kids with allergic rhinitis also experience increased mental stress, with 54% of parents stating that were anxious about their kids having an allergic attack.
For young children, allergic symptoms can make it impossible to participate in typical outdoor activities. In the same vein, allergies to foods can increase social stress around their friends and limit peer interaction.
Another clinical trial found a connection between allergic rhinitis and various mood disorders. This study’s major finding is that it is important for doctors to check young people with allergies for mood disorders as a standard precaution.
Access to allergy care is essential to mitigating the effect allergies impact on mental health. Unfortunately, there are many neglected communities that have limited access to care.
There is a need for more research on allergies and mental health in order to better understand the link between the two. Additionally, medical professionals should be trained to ask their patients about allergies and assess them for any potential impact on mental health.
Natural recommendations for reducing allergy symptoms
Allergies are typically connected with inflammation, thus, healthcare providers typically suggest that individuals with allergies should try and limit inflammation in their bodies.
Adding antioxidant-rich organic fruits and vegetables to your diet can also help to boost the immune system. Citrus fruits in particular are very beneficial since they contain anti-inflammatory flavonoids.
Using herbal remedies for allergies can also help. Some of the best herbs for allergies include stinging nettle, rosemary, and butterbur.
Following an active, fit lifestyle is also key since it helps to reduce inflammation. Regular moderate exercise is the best way to achieve this.
Additionally, ensuring that you have low-allergen bedding is also important.
Finally, it’s important to manage stress levels since allergies and stress go hand-in-hand. relaxation techniques such as yoga or meditation can help with this.
The connection between allergies and mental health is seldom addressed, thus contributing to the stigma surrounding them.
Aside from diagnosing and treating physical symptoms, doctors should encourage people with allergies to openly discuss any mental health symptoms they may also be experiencing.
Speaking with a psychologist can help to lower stress levels and provide mental tools for emotional management. Some people may also find relief and courage by connecting with others dealing with the same problems, and thus, finding an allergy support group can be of value.
Adam Mulligan did his degree in psychology at the University of Hertfordshire. He is interested in mental health, wellness, and lifestyle.