At the University of Mississippi Medical Center in Jackson, Dr. Gailen Marshall says he's seeing and hearing about Katrina survivors who are having allergy and asthma attacks brought on by the emotional toll of the hurricane.
"These are people who are winding up in urgent care clinics and hospitals," says Marshall, director of clinical immunology and allergy at the hospital.
Under normal circumstances, though, many of these patients say they typically would experience little more than a case of pollen-induced sniffles and perhaps some mild wheezing, he says.
Some studies, including one published last week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, support a connection between stress and the worsening of allergies and asthma.
Marshall, an allergist at UMC, is heading a study of Hurricane Katrina victims looking at the relationship between psychological stress, the immune system and mold. The study includes about 60 participants who have suffered some kind of loss or inconvenience as a result of the storm and are dealing with stress in different ways.
The pilot study for the research is being funded by UMC, but Marshall hopes to receive funding from the National Institutes of Health for the remainder of the five-year project, which he says will cost $1.5 million.