Author: Olga Khazan
There might be a hidden link between seasonal sniffles and mood disorders.
A few years ago, Maya Nanda began noticing a strange pattern among her patients. A pediatric allergist at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center at the time, Nanda treated children who had reactions to everything from pollen to pets, and she realized that kids with severe allergies also seemed to have higher rates of anxiety and depression. These young patients seemed anxious when they were discussing their symptoms, and they would often say they felt worried too. When one patient who had asthma complained of shortness of breath, Nanda discovered he was actually having a panic attack.
In 2016, Nanda and her colleagues published a study that found that among 7-year-olds, allergies were indeed associated with depression, anxiety, and symptoms such as being withdrawn. Kids with hay fever had a threefold risk of depression and anxiety. Recently, more evidence has supported this link—and not just in children. A study of German adults that came out in April also found that generalized anxiety was associated with seasonal allergies.
If further research bolsters this relationship between allergies and mental health, it could provide a fascinating glimpse into how our bodies might influence our minds, and possibly vice versa. Two seemingly unconnected diseases, each affecting millions of Americans, could turn out to be not so different after all.
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