Allergies and asthma are bad enough on their own. But add chronic stress to the mix and your irritation or discomfort may become even worse. That's because, over time, stress can cause chemical changes in your body that may affect your immune system. This may make your body even more sensitive to substances that trigger your allergies, leaving you more vulnerable to whatever triggers them.
When this happens, allergy symptoms may flare up more easily and your allergic reaction may be worse than usual.
Stress and allergy, asthma symptoms
Here are some ways stress may affect symptoms:
- Hives — Those raised, red and often itchy spots on your skin usually indicate an allergic reaction of some sort, but they also may be triggered by stress. If your rash is related to stress, managing stress may help reduce outbreaks.
- Atopic dermatitis or eczema — The itching that comes with this skin condition can be worse when you’re stressed or upset.
- Seasonal and perennial allergies — If you're going through a stressful time, your runny nose, itchy eyes and sneezing may be worse.
- Asthma — Stress can trigger an asthma attack, and it can make your symptoms worse.
Help break the cycle
Will removing all of the stressors in your life cause your allergy symptoms to disappear? Probably not but by taking positive steps to help manage stress, you may be able to ease them.
Here's what to do:
- Continue with your allergy medication — either over-the-counter or as prescribed by your doctor
- Identify the source of your stress — and then try to deal with it, don't just ignore it
- Get as much sleep as you can — whenever you can
- Get enough exercise to help relieve your stress — and yes, walking counts
- Meditate — to help relax your mind
- Try deep breathing — either alone or combined with yoga
- Make focused movement part of your life — yoga and tai chi are just two examples
- Get support — from family, friends or support groups