Allergies are a natural part of the immune system where it reacts to what it perceives to be foreign invaders. Many people suffer from allergies to food, pollen, dust or other substances they encounter in their environments. Some food allergies are severe and can be deadly. Other allergies are merely annoying with congestion, itchiness and even skin reactions like rashes and bumps.
Suffering from allergies is a fairly common experience, although most people do not find them debilitating. There are also over-the-counter medicines that can help treat the symptoms. In extreme cases of food allergies or allergies to bee stings, emergency first aid measures are available to keep a sudden allergy attack from being fatal.
The Connection Between Allergies and Mental Health
People who suffer from persistent allergy symptoms might also notice effects on their mental health. Chronic conditions usually include a mental or emotional component. Consistent symptoms create stress, and stress can have a number of negative impacts on mental health.
Potential Effects of Congestion from Allergies
One of the most common allergy symptoms is congestion. Allergies activate the immune system, and one of the defenses the body has against airborne invaders is mucus. Mucus production increases to try to coat and protect the delicate and permeable membranes inside the nasal passages. The side effect of increased mucus production is decreased respiration.
When allergies make it hard for you to breathe, you might have trouble sleeping. Sleep deprivation is common during allergy seasons, and it can lead to mental health issues. A lack of consistent and restorative sleep can promote anxiety and depression. Studies show that when the pollen count is high, suicides among women are also at increased levels.
Potential Effects from Allergy Medication
Allergy medicine can also contribute to the mental health issues allergy sufferers may experience. For instance, traditional decongestants can make you sleepy. That may help to make up for the lack of sleep during allergy season, but it can increase the risk of depression. Chronic allergy sufferers might need to take decongestants regularly for several weeks out of the year. They leave you feeling foggy and not fully alert. The combination of drug-induced sleep and awake time when you are not fully alert can take an emotional toll.
More modern forms of allergy relief medicine strive to eliminate the sedative effect of decongestants. These over-the-counter medications include stimulants that can increase heart rate. These amphetamine-containing medicines can become addicting and lead to anxiety. Anxiety and depression are often co-occurring conditions.
Dealing With Allergies and Mental Health Issues
Allergies left untreated can become debilitating. If the symptoms are severe enough and chronic, they need to be treated. When treating allergies, however, you need to consider the associated mental health issues. Understanding that there is a connection between allergies and depression can change your mindset and how you deal with your conditions.
- Try to avoid the substances that aggravate an allergic reaction. Keep your home clean and free of allergens as much as possible. Potential allergens like pollen and dust come in on your clothes and hair, and they can transfer to soft surfaces in your home and hide there.
- Be sure to wash your hair frequently, especially during high pollen seasons. Doing this before bed means that you will not be sleeping with all of these allergens that were caught in your hair and transferred to your pillows and other bedding.
- Try to replace soft surfaces like carpets with hard-surface flooring that can be wiped clean often. Carpets tend to hold more dust, pollen and other allergens than hard surfaces.
If you are an allergy sufferer who also struggles with depression, continue treating your depression. As you begin to relieve your allergy symptoms, you may find your depression lessens. Work with your doctors to discover the best balance for you between focusing on allergies and treating your depression.
Understanding the connection between mind and body is essential to achieving good health. Maintaining a healthy body and lifestyle can positively affect your mental health, and better mental health can also promote better physical health.