April is Stress Awareness Month – a time for healthcare professionals throughout the country to join forces in increasing public awareness of the causes and proper management of stress. Stress is known to lead to a number of major health problems, from anxiety to heart attacks.
Although you may not know it, allergies are a manifestation of internal body stress. When your body comes in contact with allergens, it should just ignore them. Instead, it believes that it is under attack and releases chemicals such as histamine into the body as a defense. The chemicals cause a number of symptoms that deplete your body’s resources. You may experience coughing, a runny nose, a headache, fatigue, sinus problems, sneezing, hives, or eczema. In some cases, your body may spiral into full-blown anaphylaxis with your blood pressure and heart rate feeling the effects of your body’s zealous “counter-attack.”
The body can overreact to a number of allergens, including pollen, dust, mold, and pet dander. Food proteins can also send your body into overload.
Just as there is internal stress in the case of an allergy attack, some people believe that external stress can exacerbate allergies. It may weaken your immune system and leave you more vulnerable to allergic reactions. This can become a vicious cycle, with external forces making you more susceptible to the internal “allergy war” and internal allergic reactions causing such irritating symptoms that your body gets overloaded by external stressors.
Stress that persists for an extended period can lead to the stress-induced production of a hormone known as cortisol. An elevated level of cortisol compromises your immune system, leaving you unable to ward off infections and disease. The result could be a proliferation of bacteria and viruses that may infect your body cells, resulting in an increased risk of illness and a host of other negative symptoms.
It’s important to address the factors that contribute to your stress and avoid them. If you are stressed because of too much work, you need to slow down. If you are low on sleep, commit to get at least seven or eight hours per night. If allergies are wearing you down, get treatment through allergy shots or under-the-tongue allergy drops (sublingual immunotherapy).