Everyday substances, such as pollens, chemicals in the home, pet dander and mold are well-known allergy triggers - the list of possible allergens in humans is extensive, and difficult to pinpoint at times. According to a new study, even mild levels of stress and anxiety can cause allergy symptoms to linger, producing worse symptoms the day after exposure.
The findings were reported at the August 14 annual meeting of the American Psychological Association, in Boston, and come from researchers at Ohio State University, presented by Jan Kiecolt-Glaser, a psychology and psychiatry professor and stress researcher.
The study involved a small group of 28 volunteers with a history of seasonal allergies and hay fever who spent two and a half days at Ohio State – one day was a “low-stress day”; the other “high stress”. Traditional methods of introducing allergens via skin pricks were used to measure the severity of allergy response. More severe reactions were seen in those who were “moderately anxious” and “highly anxious” on stress-filled day. Highly stressed individuals were four times as likely to react strongly to the injected allergens.
Medical costs for allergy treatment are estimated at 3.4 million dollars annually, posing a significant burden on both individuals and healthcare. Allergies are chronic, and the fifth most common disease in America, and the third most common chronic disease in those under 18 years of age. Visits to the doctor’s office are incurred by 16.7 million each year for allergic rhinitis. Sinusitis affects 31 million persons annually. (1)
Reducing stress in our daily lives would have far-reaching implications toward better health. The difficulty lies in recognizing what interventions are effective. Meditation, spending time with a hobby, exercise (for some), more family time, and even a change of jobs may be the ticket to a healthier lifestyle for millions. Once again, we are seeing a powerful connection between stress and illness.
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