Stress may worsen allergy attacks

By Ann Griswold • Published: December 2nd, 2008
Category: Health in a Heartbeat

Allergy season is stressful, as anyone who has suffered through a sleepless night can tell you. But while allergies are frustrating on normal days, a new study suggests that stress and anxiety can make symptoms even worse.

To test the link between allergies and stress, researchers from Ohio State University invited twenty-eight men and women with hay fever to visit their research center. The participants answered questions about their normal levels of stress, anxiety, self-confidence and feelings of control, and then received several skin-prick tests to determine which allergens they were most sensitive to.

After receiving the tests, the participants were asked to complete one of two activities: the low-stress task of reading aloud from a magazine, or the high-stress task of giving a ten-minute speech to a panel of behavioral experts.

The next day, participants who completed the high-stress task formed welts twice as large in response to the skin-prick test. The delayed allergic response is significant, researchers say, because it shows that today’s stress can make tomorrow’s symptoms even worse. And as most allergy sufferers know, delayed symptoms don’t respond well to antihistamines, the most commonly sought treatments for runny noses and watery eyes.

What’s more: The researchers also found that stress makes people respond to allergens that wouldn’t normally bother them.

So if you’re trying to snuff out allergy symptoms, here’s another excuse to curl up with your box of facial tissues and relax. It might help more than you think!