Stress may be the culprit behind allergies



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Posted on January 3, 2013 at 4:10 PM

Updated Friday, Jan 4 at 10:19 AM

Researchers at Ohio State University have uncovered a surprising reason why your allergies may be getting worse.

They say the real culprit could be stress.

No matter where she goes, Megan Sheasby can't seem to escape her allergies.

"My nose completely clogs up, my throat will, sometimes, depending on the type of allergy, but will close up as well, red, puffy eyes, just very itchy," she said.

And while Megan's surroundings may be triggering her allergies, a new study says it's stress that's making them worse.

"We found that stress and anxiety make a big difference in terms of allergic responses," said Janice Kiecolt-Glaser, PhD at Ohio State University Medical Center.

Researchers recruited volunteers with a history of hay fever and seasonal allergies and then used pinpricks to expose them to ragweed and pollen. As expected, their skin developed wheals, or red, puffy areas that signal an allergic response.

Then researchers turned it up a notch.

Those same volunteers were then asked to give a speech in front of an audience. And as their stress levels increased, so did the allergic reaction - in some cases it was two to four times as bad.

"So the take-home message is, if you're allergic, stress and anxiety are a bad combination," Glaser said.

It's a message some 50 million Americans need to hear

It's estimated allergies cost this country $3.4 billion a year.