"We think this study calls for better screening by pediatricians, allergists, and parents of children with allergic disease. Too often in my clinic I see allergic children with clinical anxiety (or) depressive symptoms; however, they are receiving no care for these conditions. We don't know how treatment for allergic diseases may effect or change the risk for internalizing disorders and we hope to study this in the future.”
Study links allergies with increased chances for anxiety, depression
Kids who have allergies at an early age are more likely than others to also have problems with anxiety and depression, according to a new study.
As the number of allergies increase, so do internalizing behavior scores, the researchers found.
Internalizing behaviors include disorders, like anxiety or depression, that develop when people keep their problems to themselves, or "internalize" them.
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The researchers studied 546 children who had skin tests and exams at age one, two, three, four and seven and whose parents completed behavioral assessments at age seven. They looked for signs of sneezing and itchy eyes, wheezing or skin inflammation related to allergies.
Parents answered 160 questions about their child’s behaviors and emotions, including how often they seemed worried, nervous, fearful, or sad.
Kids who had allergic sneezing and itchy or watery eyes or persistent wheezing at age four tended to have higher depressive or anxiety scores than others at age seven, the researchers reported in Pediatrics.
Anxiety and depression scores increased as the number of allergies increased.
“This study can't prove causation. It only describes a significant association between these disorders, however we have hypotheses on why these diseases are associated,” said lead author Dr. Maya K. Nanda of the division of Asthma, Allergy, and Immunology, at Children’s Mercy Hospital in Kansas City, Missouri.
Children with allergic diseases may be at increased risk for abnormal internalizing scores due to an underlying biological mechanism, or because they modify their behavior in response to the allergies, she said.
Like other chronic diseases, allergic diseases may trigger maladaptive behaviors or emotions, she said, but some prior studies support a biologic mechanism that involves allergy antibodies triggering production of other substances that affect parts of the brain that control emotions.