It’s widely understood that many people frequently struggle with allergies, though the extent of this problem might still come across as somewhat surprising. The American College of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology provides the following information about allergies in the United States.
- Nasal allergies are estimated to affect approximately 50 million people in the United States, and its prevalence is increasing, affecting as many as 30 percent of adults and up to 40 percent of children.
- Allergic diseases, which include asthma, are the fifth most prevalent chronic diseases in all ages, and the third most common in children.
- 16.9 million adults and 6.7 million children have been diagnosed with hay fever in the last year.
- 8.3 million American children have respiratory allergies.
- An estimated 9.5 million American children have skin allergies.
By the same token, stress is another issue with which Americans are all too familiar. For example, a 2013 Harris Interactive survey asked more than 1,000 American adults about their levels of job-related stress. This organization found that more than four-fifths – 83% – of respondents claimed to be stressed out their job. Making matters worse is that stress may make an allergies even more of a hassle.
Increased Vulnerability to Allergens?
According to researchers from Ohio State University (OSU), allergy sufferers might experience more frequent allergy flares due to stress. This conclusion was the result of a study featuring 179 OSU employees, all of whom were monitored over a period of twelve weeks. Each participant was asked to fill out questionnaires regarding their levels of stress and depression, which were collected by the authors before two separate two-week periods. In addition, key information from the subjects was recorded on a daily basis over two 14-day spans:
- Same-day allergy flares
- Perceived events
- Stressful events
- Salivary cortisol levels
In a press release describing their findings, the authors reported that multiple allergic episodes were observed in 39 percent of the subjects. A strong majority of the people in this group (64 percent) suffered in excess of four allergy flare ups. These episodes were documented over the course of two periods, both of which lasted 14 days each.
The study also featured noteworthy information regarding the patients’ emotional well being. Compared to those with no discernible allergy symptoms, those who experienced more than one allergic episode were found to have higher stress levels. Moreover, a sizable number of participants developed allergy symptoms within days of reporting a spike in stress. A same-day relationship between stress and allergy episodes, however, could not be firmly established.
Allergist and lead study author Amber Patterson stated that “stress can cause several negative effects on the body, including causing more symptoms for allergy sufferers. Our study also found those with more frequent allergy flares also have a greater negative mood, which may be leading to these flares.”
Fortunately, allergy sufferers have several options for reducing the amount of stress in their daily lives. Some helpful relaxation techniques include meditation, breathing exercises and yoga. Seeking assistance from friends, colleagues or even social workers can also work to keep stress in check, as can avoiding caffeine-laced drinks and smoking. Of course, it is always a good idea to get an adequate amount of sleep and to adhere to a healthy diet.