Hay Fever Linked to Depression
Study Shows People With Depression, Bipolar Disorder Have Worse Depression During Allergy Season
May 25, 2010 (New Orleans) -- If you suffer from a mood disorder and hay fever, don't be surprised if your mood worsens when pollen season rolls around.
Preliminary research shows that people with depression or bipolar disorder who are allergic to tree or ragweed pollen experience worse depression when exposed to that allergen.
"The worse the allergy symptoms, the worse their depression scores [on a standardized test used to assess depression and mania]," says researcher Partam Manalai, MD, of the department of psychiatry at the University of Maryland School of Medicine in Baltimore.
The findings were presented at a news conference here at the annual meeting of the American Psychiatric Association (APA).
Studies show that as many as one in 10 Americans suffers from depression. As many as one in five may have seasonal allergies, or hay fever, Manalai tells WebMD.
Some studies suggest that people with hay fever are prone to mood disorders, he says.
Interestingly, there is a springpeak in pollen count due to tree pollen -- and a somewhat smaller fallpeak due to ragweed -- that parallels a spring peak and a somewhat smaller fallpeak in suicide rates across the world, Manalai says.
To further explore the relationship between hay fever and allergies, the researchers recruited 100 individuals who had been diagnosed with depression or bipolar disorder. Of the total, 53% tested positive for allergies to ragweed or tree pollen.
In people with allergies, scores worsened substantially from low pollen season to high pollen season. The worse their allergy symptoms, the greater the change.
Treating Allergies May Help With Depression Symptoms
"In patients with allergy and depression, prophylactic treatment of these conditions may prevent worsening of mood during peak allergen season," Manalai says.
Manalai stresses that only people with mood disorders were studied; otherwise healthy people who feel miserable during allergy season shouldn't show up at their doctor's office demanding an antidepressant.
"But in people with depression and allergies, we think treating the allergies may prevent worsening of depression symptoms," he says.
Jeffrey Borenstein, MD, chairman of the APA's communication council and medical director of Holliswood Hospital in Queens, N.Y., tells WebMD that while preliminary, the study could "be very useful clinically for patients.
"If this information is confirmed, I would want to keep an eye out for worsening of symptoms during allergy season in my patients. I might be able to avoid increasing their medication by treating the allergy," says Borenstein, who moderated the news briefing.
This study was presented at a medical conference. The findings should be considered preliminary as they have not yet undergone the "peer review" process, in which outside experts scrutinize the data prior to publication in a medical journal.