Spring is almost, if not already, here, and with it comes allergy season. Let’s not beat around the bush here — allergies suck. And new evidence suggests that they might suck even more than previously thought. There may be a link between allergies and mental illness. What evidence have researchers found to support this theory, and what can you do to take care of yourself this spring?
Allergies and Mental Health
What do your seasonal or environmental allergies have to do with your mental health? A lot more than most people may have realized, according to new research. A team at Ohio State University has found that anxiety is often a factor in how you experience your allergy symptoms. Stress, associated with anxiety or other mental health conditions, can increase the severity of your allergy attack and cause the attack to last longer. It’s been proven that stress makes it harder for your immune system to protect you, contributing to longer and more severe allergy attacks.
The medication that you take to help deal with your allergies can also have a negative effect on your mental health. Most antihistamines cause drowsiness. This can be beneficial to help you catch up on your sleep during allergy season, but it can also contribute to increased anxiety and depression symptoms — especially those medications like Benadryl that leave you feeling groggy and hung over once they’ve done their job.
Taking Care Of Yourself During Allergy Season
What can you do to help take care of both your physical and mental health during allergy season?
- Avoid allergy triggers whenever you can. If you’re allergic to dust, wear a dust mask while you’re cleaning. If you’re allergic to pollen, make sure you wash your hair before you head to bed — pollen can collect in your hair and if you go to bed without washing, you can transfer the pollen onto your pillow and bedding.
- Improve the air quality in your living space. Invest in high-quality air filters, especially for your air conditioner and vacuum cleaners. Have your heating and cooling systems inspected for mold or other allergens that could be exacerbating your allergy symptoms.
- Get rid of soft surfaces. This isn’t always an option if you’re renting your home, but if it’s an option where you live, replace carpet with tile or other hard surface flooring. Carpet tends to retain dust, pollen, and other allergens. If you can’t get rid of your carpet, vacuum frequently with a high-quality filter.
- Talk to your doctor. You may be able to find antihistamines or other allergy medications that won’t affect your mental health. If those don’t work for you, you may be able to work with your doctor to find a treatment regimen that will work with your current mental health treatment regimen. Your doctor is there to help you, so they should be your first stop if you’re having excessive trouble with your allergies.
- Take time to take care of yourself. If you’re suffering during allergy season, self-care is essential. Take time for yourself, even if it’s just a hot bath after work or an extra nap in the afternoon.
- Ask for help. If you’re feeling tired, sick or overwhelmed, ask for help. It’s okay to ask for a day off to recover, or some help from a friend to get caught up on that laundry you’ve been neglecting. Sometimes, we just need someone to hold us up when we’re feeling like crap — especially during allergy season.
We hate to be the bearer of bad news, but rumor has it this season may be one of the worst allergy seasons in recent history. Even if you’re not prone to allergies, you may find yourself sniffing or sneezing. Make sure you take care of yourself — both your physical health and your mental health!
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