You may have experienced it before – whenever you feel stressed, your allergy symptoms also get worse. It is a vicious cycle: dealing with allergies is stressful, and stress affects allergies. The American Institute of Stress states that people suffering from hay fever, asthma and eczema often note that their allergy symptoms get worse whenever they feel stressed out.
How stress influences allergies
Our body releases stress hormones as a defense mechanism to “dangerous” situations. When our brain senses danger, the adrenal glands release stress hormones that cause our blood pressure to rise, make our heart pound, and increases the blood flow to our brain and muscles.
As a short-term reaction, the release of stress hormones is a positive thing, as it can get us through challenging situations in our day-to-day life. When stress becomes chronic however, it directly affects other conditions we might have, for example depression, anxiety, high blood pressure, diabetes, heart disease, and allergies.
Why allergy symptoms feel worse under stress
So why do allergy symptoms feel worse when we are under pressure? While stress does not cause allergy symptoms, our body releases hormones such as adrenaline and histamine when we are stressed. Histamine is the hormone responsible for allergic symptoms – so if the level of histamine in our system increases, allergy symptoms such as sneezing, a runny nose, headaches, watery and red eyes, and irritated skin feel worse than they already do.
Reduce stress to alleviate allergy symptoms
When you are diagnosed with an allergy, your physician or allergy specialist will tell you to avoid the allergen to minimize symptoms. Think of stress like another allergy source you should distance yourself from. You might say that it is easier said than done, but the good news is that the doctor-approved way to avoid stress is to do something nice for yourself, for example:
Dedicating time to relax
Take some regular me-time and indulge in relaxing activities, such as taking a bath, watching a movie, reading a book, or whatever hobby makes you happy.
Moving your body reduces stress. It does not have to be a two hour workout either – a brisk 20 minute walk or home workout (there are tons of resources online) is enough. Fun fact: stress induced adrenaline stays in our body for 4 weeks until it is fully released from our system. The only way to accelerate this process is through exercise!
Breathing exercises & meditation
When stress sets in, sometimes it gets hard to breathe. Deep breathing exercises and guided meditations are great tools to focus on your breathing and reducing your stress level.