- Scientists have unearthed a link between hay fever and psychiatric disorders
- Around 185,000 patients were studied over 15 years to make the conclusion
- The team of Taiwanese researchers uncovered a similar link between asthma
- The results were the opposite for patients with eczema – they had a lower risk
It’s a common problem this time of year.
But a major study suggests hay fever may have long-lasting effects on mental health.
Scientists have unearthed a worrying link between the summer allergy and psychiatric disorders, such as schizophrenia.
They found patients with hay fever and asthma are 66 per cent more likely be struck down with a mental illness in the future.
The findings, by Taiwanese researchers, come amid a ‘pollen bomb’ in the UK that has caused misery for millions of hay fever sufferers.
It’s a common problem this time of year. But a major study suggests hay fever may have long-lasting effects on mental health
WHAT WAS THE POLLEN BOMB IN THE UK?
Soaring temperatures in the UK, which reached as high as 26°C (80°F), brought misery to millions of hay fever sufferers.
Experts warned of a ‘condensed spring’ as the UK dealt with a period of intense flowing that led to a ‘pollen bomb’.
Plants need a period of cold and then warm weather before they are able to flower, meaning now the days are warming up those plants that were not able to flower earlier in the spring are likely to all do so together
Scientists said the high levels of a pollen are a result of a long and brutal winter.
The sudden sunny weather follows the months of snow, rain and freezing temperatures Britons have had to endure.
Concerned charities warned pollen is a ‘top trigger’ for asthma attacks, which can prove deadly.
Experts warned of a ‘condensed spring’ as the UK dealt with a period of intense flowing amid record-high temperatures.
Some 185,000 patients – of which a quarter had asthma, eczema or hay fever – were studied to make the new conclusion.
Experts found 10.8 per cent of patients with one of the three allergies developed a psychiatric disorder over the course of 15 years.
In contrast, less than seven per cent of the other patients went on to be diagnosed with a mental illness in the same time frame.
This translated to a 1.66-fold increased risk for asthma or hay fever patients, found the scientists at Tri-Service General Hospital in Taipei.
However, the results were the opposite for patients with eczema – they had a lower risk of going on to develop a psychiatric disorder.
WHAT IS HAY FEVER?
Hay fever traditionally develops in school-age youngsters or during their teenage years and these groups are more likely to visit a GP with symptoms rather than using over-the-counter treatments.
Caused by an allergy to pollen, the condition is estimated to affect about one in ten Britons and Americans.
Grass pollen is the most common cause of reactions and tends to affect sufferers between May and July. Tree pollens tend to be most active from March to May and weed pollens from early spring to early autumn.
Symptoms include sneezing, a runny nose and itchy eyes.
As the body’s immune system reacts to the pollen, cells in the lining of the nose and eyes release histamine and other chemicals.
These cause inflammation in the nose – a condition called rhinitis – and conjunctivitis in the eyes.
Lead researcher Dr Nian-Sheng Tzeng believes his study is the first to establish a clear link between allergies and psychiatric disorders.
The findings, published in the Frontiers in Psychiatry, could have implications for how doctors care and monitor patients with allergies.
Dr Tzeng said: ‘We would like to let clinicians who care for patients with allergic diseases know that their risk for psychiatric diseases may be higher.
‘Assessing their emotional condition and monitoring their mental health could help to avoid later psychiatric problems.’
Dr Tzeng and colleagues believe the newly discovered link between allergies and psychiatric disorders is down to inflammation.
Inflammation – a reaction by the immune system to allergens – plays a key role in hay fever, asthma and eczema.
And a host of recent trials has found a link between inflammation and psychiatric disorders, such as depression and anxiety disorders
Dr Tzeng added the mental stress of a psychiatric disorder may also contribute to allergies and worsen them.
However, the researchers were keen to point out that further trials are needed to clarify the exact cause of the phenomenon.
WHAT IS THE SURVIVAL GUIDE FOR HAY FEVER PATIENTS?
6am: Put Vaseline under your nose
Pollen levels are known to be at their highest in the morning and peak at midday. Vaseline, or another petroleum jelly, can help to trap pollen, Women’s Health reports.
9am: Wash your hands
Washing your hands is something you should do all day long as it helps to flush away any build-up of pollen on your hands.
12:30pm: Don’t go outside for lunch
Staying indoors will prevent your immune system reacting to pollen, thus stopping the release of histamine and other chemicals.
1pm: Eat hay fever fighting foods with your lunch
Cassandra Barns, a nutrition and health writer, claims eating vitamin C can help ease sinus congestion.
4pm: Apply eye drops or nasal spray
According to Asthma UK, pollen counts are higher in the late afternoon and early evening.
6pm: Wash your hair when you get home from work
Dr Steve Iley, medical director at Bupa UK, told Women’s Health that pollen can congregate in hair.
8pm: Steer clear of booze
Dr Iley said: ‘I’d recommend staying away from alcohol on a warm summer’s night, as this can actually make the symptoms worse.
‘This is because alcohol is a sensitiser and contains histamine, which can activate or strengthen the allergic response.’
10:30pm: Take a hay fever tablet
Taking a tablet to control hay fever before you sleep could help you combat your symptoms and lead to a good night’s kip.
11pm: Close all your windows
Keeping the windows shut will prevent any pollen from reaching you indoors – stopping you from having any symptoms.