What was the study about?
The research team in Monterrey, Mexico investigated whether COVID-19 has a stronger impact on people with allergies. They collected information from 4,106 people – 40% with an allergy, 60% without. The allergies were mostly asthma or allergic rhinitis (77%). The other allergies had nothing to do with the respiratory tract and included atopic dermatitis, urticaria, and food and drug allergies.
All participants completed two standard medical questionnaires. The first questionnaire asked how much they suffered from depression and anxiety. The second asked whether they had post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
PTSD occurs after an overwhelming traumatic event and is associated with strong, unpleasant or disturbed reactions. In some cases, the event may resurface repeatedly and uncontrollably in the person’s mind and impair his or her alertness and responsiveness. It can affect anyone. In fact, PTSD is not a mistaken reaction of the body, but rather its attempt to survive a threatening situation.
The data were collected between April 1 and 15, 2020. This period stands out because Mexico was in a stressful phase of the coronavirus pandemic in April 2020, during which it was unclear how much worse the pandemic was going to get and the majority of the American continent was under quarantine.
- People with allergies generally showed more frequent signs of PTSD and also had a higher risk of depression
- People with respiratory allergies had a higher risk of developing symptoms of PTSD and depression compared to people with other types of allergies.
- The risk of developing symptoms of PTSD and depression was higher for women than for men.
- People between 18 and 59 years were particularly affected.
Why is this important?
This study is one of the first to address the effects of the coronavirus pandemic on people with allergies. The authors believe that the treatment of mental symptoms is something that patients and doctors should also be prepared for after the pandemic. The more we know about it, the better we can manage it.
What the study did not do is compare the mental health of the participants before the pandemic and during the pandemic. The data from this study suggest that their condition worsens, but does not prove it.
However, the difference between people with and without allergies during the pandemic can be shown with the data.
Gonzalez-Diaz SN et al.: Psychological impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on patients with allergic diseases. World Allergy Organization Journal 2021;14:100510
Barnhill JW. Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) in: MSD Manual Online. Content last modified Jul 2018. (In German)