Spring Allergies: Can They Make You Depressed?

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Leave it to a terrible spell of spring allergies to ruin your day, or for many sufferers, many days or even weeks. It turns out, the coughing, sneezing and itchy eyes that accompany seasonal allergies may also help trigger or exacerbate low mood.

In a recent article, CNN’s Elizabeth Landau explained that seasonal allergies — which affect about 36 million Americans — are associated with depressive symptoms like sadness, lethargy and fatigue.

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“‘Cranky’ is really the best word for it,” Katie Ingram, 30, of Alexandria, Va., a triathlete who suffers seasonal allergies, told Landau. “I take a lot of medication for it and that makes me sleepy. And I can’t do a lot of the things that I like to do outside, so that makes me cranky. … The wheezing part of it makes me feel tired.”

Studies have associated allergies with an increased risk of depression. Landau reported:

Research has shown there is about a doubling of risk for depression in a person suffering allergies and, if you’ve been seen by an allergist, that about triples the likelihood of having depression, said Dr. Paul Marshall, neuropsychologist at Hennepin County Medical Center in Minneapolis. Those are correlations found in scientific studies, but they don’t show that allergies cause clinical depression.

(More on TIME.com: Got Allergies? Be Careful How You Hook Up)

Indeed, most experts suggest that rather than causing depression directly, allergies just make life harder, which in turn can worsen symptoms of underlying depression or trigger a temporary low mood. Seasonal allergies may cause sneezing, coughing, congestion, itchy eyes and fatigue, which can impair daily function at work or school; what’s more, medications to treat allergy symptoms have side effects of their own, including sleep problems. All of these factors can exacerbate irritability and depressed mood.

Children with allergies may be more susceptible to behavioral and mood problems, Landau reported, because they have more sensitive systems.

(More on TIME.com: Research Roundup: Key Findings on Kids’ Asthma and Allergies)

For many, the most pressing question is, How do I get rid of allergies? Treatments like intranasal steroids, topical antihistamines and over-the-counter nasal rinses can help temporarily alleviate symptoms, Landau found. But the only long-term fix is getting allergy shots.

Read the full CNN article here.