Anyone with seasonal allergies will tell you that they are no joke. Symptoms like itchy eyes, sneezing, congestion, and inflammation make going outside a nightmare. Sometimes, at the height of ragweed season, you can’t even tell if you’re suffering from hay fever or an actual infection! But is it possible that your seasonal allergies could be linked to your mental health as well?
Some studies suggest there may actually be a connection between seasonal allergies and depression. This study shows that people with seasonal allergies report higher levels of fatigue and general sadness during ragweed season. And another study shows that there’s about a 50% increase in likelihood for depression among people with seasonal allergies. What does this information really mean for you, though?
Correlation vs. Causation
First of all, just because there’s a connection between seasonal allergies and depression, doesn’t mean that seasonal allergies cause depression or vice versa. It’s more likely that there are actually several factors that all may contribute to the correlation. For instance, dealing with chronic discomfort (and even pain) due to allergy symptoms can cause fatigue or general unhappiness. Staying inside to avoid pollen and allergens deprives you of natural sunlight, which can lead to lower mood, insomnia, fatigue, and other depression-related symptoms.
The major takeaway here is that seasonal allergies don’t necessarily cause depression, but that they can cause situations in which depression is more likely. For this reason, people who are already at risk for depression or with a history of depression should be extra aware of how allergy season may affect their symptoms. People with Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) should also be particularly aware of how their seasonal allergies might prolong symptoms of SAD after winter and well into the spring.
A Side Effect of Medication
Allergy medication can also play a role in the correlation between depression and allergies. Many over-the-counter and prescription medications for seasonal allergies have side effects that could exacerbate depressive symptoms. Antihistamines, for example, cause drowsiness that affects your ability to perform at work or at school. Drowsiness also causes feelings of fatigue and upsets sleep cycles, which can trigger or worsen depressive episodes.
This is why it’s very important to be aware how your medicines could be affecting both your physical and mental health. Always check your labels and learn about the side effects to taking any medications!
What About Children with Allergies?
While almost all the existing studies on depression and allergies are conducted with adults, it’s important to think about how kids can be affected as well. The same situational depressive symptoms of seasonal allergies can apply to kids. In fact, little bodies are even more sensitive to allergies, which can cause dramatic mood swings. Children with allergies may seem more tired, irritable, or unhappy during pollen and ragweed season. You might want to talk with them about their feelings and help them understand how their allergies may affect their emotional health. And be sure to check the side effects of their children’s allergy medicine as well as your own! If over-the-counter medication is part of your plan Genexa also offers a safe and organic allergy medicine for kids - Children's Allergy-D.
If you find your family stuck inside this allergy season, keep your spirits up with these fun indoor activities you can do with your children this spring. And make sure you sign up for our email list for more news, advice, and content like this.