With the December holidays behind us and the new year in full swing, many people have already started feeling the usual stress of work and life in the 21st century returning. For the past year and a half, the Covid-19 pandemic has also been adding its own layer of stress and anxiety to our daily lives… but how does this prolonged stress affect your body’s response to allergens such as pollen and fungal spores, and what can you do about it?
Chronic stress can have a direct, negative effect on your physical health and has been shown to increase allergic inflammation and susceptibility to infections. The exact mechanisms are poorly understood, however in the context of allergy stress can actually increase histamine production – the chemical compound associated with several allergy symptoms such as skin rashes and allergic rhinitis. Therefore, even though stress doesn’t trigger an allergic reaction, it can increase the severity of the symptoms.
Stress and allergies go hand-in-hand and can also form part of a vicious cycle. Just as chronic stress can exacerbate your allergy symptoms, studies have shown that patients who experience asthma, hay fever and other common allergy symptoms also have an increased risk of developing mental health conditions such as depression and anxiety. This is especially true in adolescents who suffer from allergies.
Whether you experience seasonal allergies or not, it is important to look after your mental health. This year, make time in your weekly routine for well-being activities that will calm your body and mind. Examples of such activities include yoga, meditation or light exercise – even just a short walk outside in nature. Taking this time to slow down your life will not only improve your mental health and emotional resilience, but will also help your body deal with the physical challenges of allergies and other disease.