Ragweed season, stress and mood swings

Seven's On Call with Dr. Jay Adlersberg
August 21, 2008 3:44:02 PM PDT
The middle of August is the unofficial beginning of ragweed season and from now on, many of us will be miserable. A global climate change is believed to be making ragweed season worse for allergy sufferers, and a small study of seasonal allergy sufferers found that stress can make allergy attacks longer and more severe.

Stress is a part of life for most of us. And for those who who have hay fever, stress can make a bad pollen day even worse. Just ask Evalgelina Quinones.

"When I'm stressing, I seem to react more to the sneezing, to the runny nose," she said. "I blow my nose all day long."

Studies show that sufferers react to ragweed and other pollens more strongly when they're under stress.

"If I gave you an allergy test on your skin, the reaction pattern would be twice that if you were under a stressful condition than a person who was not," said Dr. Leonard Bielory, of UMDNJ.

And that is compounded by ragweed plants that are producing more pollen because of rising global temperatures and higher carbon dioxide on which the plants feed.

Just as stressful emotional states can make hay fever worse, the reverse is true. Allergies can worsen your mood. You could call that depression the hay fever blues.

"I don't wear makeup, I don't go out," Quinones said. "My nasal passages, they swell, so I just stay in the house."

When ragweed pollen fills the air, hay fever sufferers make chemicals in the blood that rush to protect them from the effects of ragweed substances. Those chemicals can affect the brain to make someone lethargic and even depressed. Sufferers should let their loved ones know.

"Patients who suffer from severe allergies need their own space and time," Dr. Bielory said. "And one has to realize that. The interaction with families is important, and they should be supportive."

Some studies find that enthusiasm and alertness go down during ragweed season, then up in the winter and down again in the next ragweed season. If you have hay fever and notice you're in a chronic bad mood, it might be a good idea to speak to your doctor.

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STORY BY: Dr. Jay Adlersberg

WEB PRODUCED BY: Bill King

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