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Seasonal Allergies + Mental Health

It’s that time of year...allergies! Allergies are more than sneezing, sniffing, itching, and a scratchy throat. They can change how we function on the day to day. With around 50 million Americans suffering from allergies, that’s a whole lot of people not feeling 100%, and it’s happening all at once.

We know that physical health and emotional health are connected, and some research suggests a link between allergies and mental health. Feeling irritable, tired, or low on motivation during allergy season may be due to allergies.

Some of the common symptoms have a clear connection. Itchiness can make it hard to focus on anything but that sensation. Puffy eyes, tender or red splotches, and other skin reactions can cause negative feelings about appearance, leading to self-doubt or insecurity. Coughing, itchy throat, and similar symptoms can make it harder to sleep, and without sleep we can feel stressed and irritable.

The struggle with feeling these cognitive and emotional parts of allergy season is real! While many people feel better after their symptoms improve and pollen counts go down, that isn’t always true.

Research isn’t conclusive as to whether or not allergies can cause other mental health problems, but some research indicates that people with certain allergies are more likely to have conditions like anxiety. Other studies show that there isn’t any evidence that allergies directly cause mental health issues.

Even with the murky research, a few things involved with allergies that may play a role in mental health.

Cytokines, which are molecules released by the immune system during allergic reactions are known to affect the brain and emotions. Antihistamines are known to impact both mood and sleep, and symptoms that are physically draining, distracting, and irritating that can contribute to sleep issues, stress, and feeling irritable.

Treating allergies may help support mental health by cutting down on the physical symptoms that give rise to uncomfortable emotions or disrupt focus. People who do treat their allergies tend to have a lower risk for anxiety and mood disorders than people who don’t treat them. For info on treating allergies, talk with your doctor or an allergist.

If you’re experiencing the havoc of allergies, create a plan of support for yourself during the seasons you’re most impacted by.

This plan may look like:

Get education about allergies and seek expert help from your doctor or an allergy specialist.

Consider treatment options after getting information from reliable and trusted sources.

Seek support from family and others close to you.

Talk with a licensed counselor or other mental health professional.

Some prevention may be helpful too.

1. If you’re prone to allergies, identify your triggers. If you’re sensitive to ragweed, stay indoors when possible if the numbers are high.

2. Clean. Dust and pet dander can be a source of allergic reaction for many people. Vacuuming, washing curtains, bedding, and dusting can be helpful.

3. Consider consulting with a nutritionist for ways that nutrition may play a role in solutions for your allergies.

4. Create a stress management/reduction plan. Stress can make allergies worse, so consider your stress levels when your symptoms are high. Meditation, exercising, participating in meaningful conversation, maintaining a good sleep schedule, and setting limits for your time commitments to have plenty of time to rest or to spend on yourself can help with stress.

If you think allergies may be impacting your mental health and wellbeing, talk to your doctor, or a mental health pro about how to manage the way they affect you.

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