Emotional stress makes seasonal allergy attacks more intense and longer lasting, according to findings presented at the annual meeting of the American Psychological Association in Boston.

Jan Kiecolt-Glaser and Ronald Glaser recruited 28 men and women. All of the volunteers had a history of hay fever and seasonal allergies. The volunteers spent two half-days in a research unit at the Ohio State University Medical Center. They were given skin prick tests after engaging in high-stress and low-stress activities. They then looked at allergic “wheals” that formed on the skin.

“The wheals on a person who was moderately anxious because of the experiment were 75 percent larger after the experiment, compared to that same person’s response on the day when they were not stressed,” comments Kiecolt-Glaser. “But people who were highly anxious had wheals that were twice as big after they were stressed compared to their response when they were not stressed. Moreover, these same people were four times more likely to have a stronger reaction to the skin test one day later after the stress,” she adds.

This next-day change — labeled a “late-phase reaction” — is important because it signals an ongoing and strengthening response to the allergens, and even suggests that sufferers may react strongly to other stimuli that previously had not caused them to develop an allergic reaction.

APA – August 20, 2008.

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