It is clear to those suffering, allergies cause stress. Constant runny nose, decreased quality of sleep, missed days at school and work are among the many reasons why. A new study from Ohio State University* flips this conclusion on its head and asks; can stress cause allergies?
Our bodies immune system is not limited to the nose. It involves organs and cells throughout the body. The inflammatory chemicals produced during an allergic reaction can have wide ranging effects. Likewise, the endocrine system will respond to stress by increasing (or decreasing) hormone levels throughout the body. These two systems do not live in isolation.
In this study, subjects were asked to complete daily diaries. They recorded allergy symptoms, mood and stress levels using a secure website. The data showed that patients with higher stress scores experienced more allergy flares. Also, there was a similar relationship between negative mood and rhinitis symptoms. For most patients, the effect was spread out over time, a stressful day did not occur together with a bad allergy day. However, for a few more sensitive subjects there was a pattern of increased allergy symptoms on stressful days.
The authors conclude that allergic individuals with persistent emotional stress have more frequent allergy symptoms. They recommend stress reduction techneques, such as meditation for the treatment of allergy symptoms. However, it should be noted, this study does not prove cause and effect. There is no evidence that the stress causes the allergy as opposed to the allergy causing the stress. Either way, stress-reduction is a good thing.
* Patterson A, Yildiz V, Klatt M, Malarkey W. Perceived stress predicts allergy flares. Ann Allergy Asthma Immunol 112 (2014) 317-321.