The Depression–Allergy Connection

April 2, 2018

I’m typically an upbeat person until my allergies kick in during the spring. Then I feel really down. What can I do to keep this from happening? An allergic reaction shouldn’t affect my ability to enjoy dancing, should it?

—Katie, Princeton, NJ

Surprisingly, allergies can affect your mood. Research by neuropsychologist Dr. Paul Marshall shows that allergy sufferers are twice as likely to be depressed as those who are allergy-free. While the exact connection is unclear, the culprit appears to be the body’s attempts to fight off harmless irritants like pollen by promoting an inflammatory response that’s linked to depression.

When your allergies (and inflammation) are in check, your depression may also subside. Fortunately, there’s a lot you can do to reduce allergy attacks. Try to limit the time you spend outside on high-pollen-count days, especially in the morning and when it’s dry and windy. To help prevent flare-ups, begin taking your allergy medication before you have symptoms. If you start to experience symptoms, additional over-the-counter antihistamines and decongestants can provide relief. In severe cases, an allergist may suggest tests to identify triggers, followed by a series of shots to desensitize your body to allergens over time.

These strategies may be enough to improve your mood. If not, you may find that combining an antidepressant medication with an over-the-counter anti-inflammatory is effective. Speak with your doctor for appropriate recommendations.

Send your questions to Dr. Linda Hamilton at
[email protected].