Allergies are often thought of as physical issues that manifest through sneezing, coughing, watery eyes, and other commonly known symptoms. But did you know that allergies can also impact your mental health and indirectly cause issues like anxiety?
While it may seem like a stretch to connect the two, studies have suggested that people who suffer from allergies may also be prone to psychological distress. These findings show how closely intertwined physical and mental health is.
So if you ever asked yourself questions like can allergies cause anxiety or can seasonal allergies cause anxiety, read on to explore how allergies and anxiety are intertwined and some treatments you can consider to ease the symptoms.
Can Allergies Trigger Anxiety?
Exposure to various allergens, such as pollen, can trigger anxiety. One research study from the International Archives of Allergy and Immunology showed that seasonal allergies are more likely to trigger generalized anxiety disorder than perennial allergies to substances like food, animal hair, and dust mites (Harter et al.).
While the relationship between allergies and anxiety isn’t clear, some researchers have linked anxiety to the stress of managing allergies.
The Relationship Between Allergies and Anxiety
Allergies could make you anxious due to various reasons. The most obvious one is that being sick will make you stressed.
Constant coughing, sneezing, itchy eyes, and a runny nose can be very uncomfortable, not to mention the disruption they cause in your life. For people with allergic asthma, symptoms can be particularly worrisome as they include shortness of breath and wheezing. These symptoms can make you fear for your life, leading to more anxiety. If you're allergic, you might be constantly anxious about the possibility of coming into contact with the allergen.
How Do Allergies Impact Mental Health?
If you suffer from hay fever or other allergies, you're at high risk for poor mental health due to several reasons. These include:
The physical symptoms of allergies can directly and significantly affect your mental health. If you're an allergy sufferer, you will often experience symptoms like dryness of the nose and throat, which can lead to irritability. You might also have atopic eczema, a condition that can cause itching and redness of the skin.
All these symptoms can contribute to feelings of depression or anxiety as you struggle with physical discomfort. Some symptoms can also interfere with your regular sleep cycles. The physical fatigue resulting from poor sleep quality may worsen your mental health.
The medications used to manage allergies, such as antihistamines or decongestants, may have side effects that interfere with mental health. These include drowsiness, agitation, irritability, and restlessness.
For instance, some physicians may recommend Sudafed to relieve sinus and nasal congestion caused by upper respiratory allergies and hay fever. However, this medication’s side effects include anxiety and restlessness.
While some of the side effects are often mild and go away once you stop the medication, in some cases, they can worsen the symptoms of existing mental health conditions. So make sure to speak with a doctor before taking any allergy medications.
Most people who suffer from allergies, especially severe allergies, worry about having an allergic reaction at any moment. This fear of a reaction can lead to avoidance of situations that you think will trigger the allergies, such as outdoor activities or social gatherings. In turn, this isolation and lower quality of life that comes with it can lead to feelings of depression and anxiety.
Additionally, if you are a parent of an allergic child, you may constantly feel anxious about your children having allergic reactions while away from home. Your kids may also have fears and anxieties due to their allergies that can worsen over time if not addressed.
What Else Can Cause or Worsen Anxiety?
Allergies aren't the only physical sensations that can cause you some sort of anxiety. Other symptoms or lifestyles can contribute to or worsen already existing anxiety. That’s why it is important to take care of yourself and your body if you have anxiety.
Dehydration occurs when you don't consume enough water throughout the day, and your body doesn't have enough fluids to function normally. This, in turn, can affect your hormones, which can affect your anxiety. Symptoms of dehydration include headaches, fatigue, and body aches.
Lack of Sleep
Enough sleep is vital for ensuring that your body cells and tissues are healthy and that your brain is alert and refreshed. If you have a poor sleep pattern, your body won’t have time to rest and replenish the energy necessary for proper functioning.
Low Blood Sugar
Low blood sugar means your blood glucose levels are not high enough to produce energy. When this happens, you might experience anxiety alongside other symptoms like chills, irritability, and confusion.
Not getting enough nutrients can affect how your body works. For example, eating a meal richer in whole grains or proteins can keep you fuller and your blood sugar steady. On the other hand, drinking too many caffeinated drinks can make you jittery and nervous.
Lack of Exercise
Exercising helps reduce the stress hormones that you have in your body. Additionally, it also stimulates the production of other hormones that help produce feelings of calm or are mood stabilizers. Therefore, not exercising keeps you from these benefits that could help your anxiety.
There are various types of anxiety disorders, including panic attacks and generalized anxiety disorder. Anxiety symptoms vary depending on the type of disorder, but there are general symptoms such as:
- Irritability and restlessness
- A feeling of impending panic or danger
- Increased heart rate
- Feeling tired or weak
- Sleeping difficulties
- Trouble concentrating
- Gastrointestinal problems
- Difficulty controlling your worries
- The urge to avoid anxiety triggers
These symptoms range from mild to severe and can be physical or psychological.
When to See a Doctor
You should see a doctor if your anxiety symptoms are causing you significant distress and impacting your day-to-day activities. For instance, consult a doctor if you feel like you’re worrying too much to the extent that you can’t work or relate well with others.
For allergies, you should see an allergist if your symptoms interfere with your daily activities. It's also necessary to seek medical attention if the allergy symptoms are severe such as chronic sinus or if you have allergic asthma.
Seek medical care if over-the-counter (OTC) medications are ineffective in controlling your allergy symptoms or if they result in severe side effects. The doctor will perform a test to determine the exact cause of your allergy and recommend treatment to reduce or get rid of your symptoms.
The doctor can recommend a skin prick test or an at-home allergy test to determine the exact allergens triggering your anxiety. The skin prick test is old-fashioned and involves scraping or pricking your skin using a needle containing a small amount of the allergen extract. The doctor will then observe the reaction and make an allergy diagnosis.
An at-home allergy test from Wyndly is more modern and convenient. To complete it, you should order a Wyndly allergy test, which will be delivered to your home.
Once you get the test, perform a simple finger prick test and send your sample back to Wyndly. The allergy doctors will examine your energy profile and develop a personalized treatment plan.
The good news is that various treatments can help you manage your allergies and anxious symptoms. Some of the best treatment options include:
One of the best ways to get relief from anxiety symptoms surrounding allergies is to reduce or limit your exposure to allergens. To do this, you should identify and avoid the triggers that cause your allergies. For instance, if seasonal allergies are causing your anxiety, you should avoid being outdoors during high pollen count times and keep your windows closed.
If limiting exposure to allergens isn't bringing relief, you can consider OTC or prescription medications to reduce your allergy symptoms. OTC medications like antihistamines, decongestants, and nasal sprays can temporarily reduce allergy symptoms. However, if these don't work or provide enough relief, an allergy doctor may prescribe stronger medications.
Sublingual immunotherapy is a long-term treatment option aimed at desensitizing your body to the allergens that cause your anxiety. It involves taking drops or tablets containing a small amount of allergen extract under the tongue.
Over time, the dosage is increased until you’re no longer allergic to them. Sublingual immunotherapy retrains your immune system to tolerate allergens, translating to long-term relief from your allergy symptoms.
Take Our Allergy Assessment
If you're looking for long-term relief from allergy-induced anxiety, choose Wyndly. Our allergy doctors will work with you to create a personalized treatment plan to help you get long-term relief from allergies.
Take our online assessment to start the journey to living allergy-free.