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Are Allergies Making You Depressed?

Feeling Better Physically and Emotionally

No matter what the exact nature of allergy-depression connection, just knowing about it may help you. For one thing, says Marshall, it helps put negative emotions into context. “Knowing that allergies can cause sadness, malaise, and lethargy may help people from falsely attributing their symptoms to something else,” he says. What’s more, it can be reassuring to know that getting allergy symptoms under control may bring a welcome lift to a depressed mood.

Experts are quick to caution that this does not mean people battling depression should ignore treatment for the condition, such as psychotherapy and antidepressant medication. Nor should allergy suffers turn away from proven treatments for allergies.

In other words, people with both allergies and depression are likely to need to be treated separately for each condition. “You still treat depression as you normally would and treat allergies as you normally would,” says Marshall.

Avoiding Allergens Comes First

Experts agree that the first line of attack against allergies should be to limit exposure to the allergens that cause them. Common allergens include pollen, dust mites, animal dander, and the molds that grow in soil and inside homes. Some helpful tips:

  • Stay indoors when pollen counts are high. Keep windows closed and the air conditioner on. If you must venture outdoors, shower and wash your hair before going to bed at night.
  • Keep humidity in your home below 50% to stop mold growth. If you use a dehumidifier, clean it frequently to keep it from becoming a source of mold.
  • Replace curtains, which collect allergens, with blinds, and stick with easy-to-clean floor coverings like wood or tile rather than rugs or carpeting.
  • Wash bedding frequently in water that’s at least 130 F to kill dust mites. Encase mattresses and pillows in allergen-impermeable covers. Don’t share your bed with the family pet.

When More Help Is Needed

Over-the-counter and prescription allergy pills, nasal sprays, and eye drops can be very effective. And when allergies prove especially severe or persistent, allergy shots (immunotherapy) are 90% effective over time.

People with allergies and depression should make sure that all doctors involved in their care speak with one another in order to coordinate their efforts. “It’s important for the allergist to speak with the psychiatrist,” says Postolache. “That is probably going to result in increased therapeutic control of both conditions.”

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Reviewed on February 10, 2010

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