It’s Not Just You — ‘Allergy Brain’ Is Real

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Hey, pretty nice that we’re finally getting some nice springy weather, huh? Oh, you haven’t noticed? Oh, you’ve been too busy sneezing your face off to pay attention to anything beyond your own abject misery? Yeah, come to think of it, that sounds about right.

Allergy season is upon us, you guys. If you didn’t already know that — well, aren’t you a lucky son of a gun. For everyone else, this is the time to stock up on Zyrtec and tissues and emotionally brace yourselves for a sniffly, red-eyed, fuzzy-headed few months. At least that last part isn’t all in your imagination: As writer Karen Weintraub recently explained in the New York Times, “allergy brain” is real. And while scientists aren’t entirely sure what causes it, Weintraub wrote, they do have a theory:

“The thought is allergies are essentially inflammation in the nose and sinuses,” said Dr. Mark Aronica, an allergist at the Cleveland Clinic. This inflammation triggers the release of proteins called cytokines as part of the immune response.

The same process happens when you have a cold. “These cytokines are there to help fight infection, and also have an impact on our ability to think and function and perform,” Dr. Aronica said. The result is that people with allergies or a bad cold often feel as if they are seeing the world through cheesecloth.

The good news: If the fogginess is a result of your congestion, then medications that ease your snottiness and sneezing should also, indirectly, help you clear your head. And if that doesn’t work, well, maybe just invest in a springtime outfit with deep pockets. Walking around with red eyes and a crusty nose is indignity enough without having to worry about where to put all those used tissues.

It’s Not Just You — ‘Allergy Brain’ Is Real