Is Laughter the Answer to Your Allergy Woes?

by Dr. Victor Marchione

It’s widely recognized that stress can present physical symptoms. It can cause fatigue and enhance illnesses, often resulting in further discomfort and even more stress. But as allergy season starts for much of the country, new research is showing stress can also trigger severe symptoms in allergy sufferers.

For people with allergies, the sniffles and sneezes that can sabotage a spring or summer day make even a walk in the park challenging. And if that walk in the park is how you’re trying to escape a stressful situation, those allergic flare-ups might be even worse.

In a small sample study, researchers followed 179 people with hay fever for a 12-week period. They found that 39% of the patients had more than one flare-up over that time. Participants who reported higher stress levels had more flare-ups than those who didn’t exhibit allergy symptoms throughout the study.

Out of the participants with high stress levels, 64% experienced more than four flare-ups in two 14-day periods. (It’s interesting to note that flare-ups were not apparent during the stressful period, but appeared in the days following the high-stress situation.)

So considering this new information, could reducing stress be a good way to combat allergies? Maybe not always, but it appears that less stress does lead to less intense flare-ups, which is likely music to the ears of most allergy suffers.

Like adding fuel to a fire, stress and allergies can create a vicious cycle. We now know stress can cause more intense flare-ups, but we also know, many of us from personal experience, that flare-ups, like pain, can be a cause for more stress, which can, in turn, intensify and increase flare-ups, and so the cycle continues.

Clearly, cutting stress could have a big impact on the severity of your allergies. For example, if you’re stressed about a big presentation at work and have a flare-up during your performance, you’ll likely experience added stress based on your sneezing during the presentation.

Unfortunately, there is not a lot you can do to avoid allergens. They are in the air and once you go outside, you’re exposed. However, you can try to control the stress in your life to limit the severity of allergic reactions.

Although controlling stress isn’t easy, it can be done. Some proven methods of stress relief—and therefore allergy relief—are meditation and deep breathing, exercise, a healthy diet, getting enough sleep, building and cultivating relationships, leading an active lifestyle, and making time to laugh. So as allergy season begins, try leading a healthier, stress-free lifestyle to undercut the severity of your allergy symptoms—laugh a little.

Sources for Today’s Article:

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Victor Marchione, MD received his Bachelor of Science Degree in 1973 and his Medical Degree from the University of Messina in 1981. He has been licensed and practicing medicine in New York and New Jersey for over 20 years. Dr. Marchione is a respected leader in the field of smoking cessation and pulmonary medicine. He has been featured on ABC News and World Report, CBS Evening News and the NBC Today Show and is the editor of the popular The Food Doctor newsletter. Dr. Marchione has also served as Principal Investigator in at least a dozen clinical research projects relating to serious ailments such as bronchitis, pneumonia, asthma, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).

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