Although a more obscure menopausal symptom, occurrences or exacerbations of allergies during menopause can occur. However it is not entirely known what the direct link is between menopause and allergies. It is believed that hormonal fluctuations, particularly with Oestrogen, can increase the production of a body chemical, called histamine, which can trigger an allergic response. This is why women who have never suffered allergies in their life, can start to, during menopause. (1)
So, in this article, we provide you with an overview about menopause and allergies; its causes, the symptoms and provide some suggestions for allergy treatment to help you gain control of this menopausal symptom.
What Are Allergies and What are the Causes?
Allergies are a hypersensitivity of the body’s own immune system to external allergens, when inhaled, exhaled or contacted. Exposure to these types of allergens cause the immune system to react in a negative way and contribute to an increase in inflammation and symptoms. Interestingly enough, women have a higher incidence of allergies and allergic type conditions, when compared to men. This can be possibly attributed to hormonal fluctuations (2)
There are a multitude of causes of allergies and they can include:
COMMON ALLERGY TRIGGERS
- Hormonal fluctuations i.e. too much Oestrogen
- Dust mites
- Certain foods
- Insect stings
- Certain medications
- Chemicals in the workplace
- General exposure to toxins and chemicals
Allergies can be wide and varied and many women will exhibit signs and symptoms of allergies differently. Quite often triggers can also be varied however, when looking at triggers for allergic asthma in particular, Oestrogen has been extensively studied.
Research has proposed that when Oestrogen peaks in the menstrual cycle, for example around mid-cycle and in the late luteal phase, symptoms of allergies tend to be exacerbated. This has been reported in 30-40% of study participants. This could be related to increased inflammation during this time due to higher Oestrogen levels and as a result, exacerbating the immune system response. (2)
Due to fluctuations in hormones throughout the menstrual cycle, allergies may not always be persistent and will tend to flair up at certain stages of the menstrual cycle.
General Symptoms of Allergies
There are a multitude of symptoms and signs that can be attributed to allergies, these can include;
It is important to note that hay fever symptoms, which can include dry, runny or itchy eyes, sneezing, and a blocked or runny nose, is different from a cold. A virus causes colds whereas hay fever is an allergic response.
Menopause is linked to hay fever as a result of its effects on the immune system, however, whether or not menopause can actually cause hay fever, that link has not been determined as of yet.
The hormonal changes of menopause affect the nervous system, digestion and sleep causing significant fatigue. All of this leads to a weakened immune system which can make some women prone to hay fever, even if they have not previously suffered from it. While it’s not the menopause itself causing the hay fever, the weakening of the immune system which is a result of menopause leads to allergies.
In many cases, women become more prone to colds and flu during menopause, another result of the weakened immune system. This is where the confusion between allergic reactions and hay fever symptoms and a virus arise. Allergic rhinitis can affect some people all year round, or they will experience an increased sensitivity to perfume or other strong fumes. The skin can also become more irritable making clothing items such as woollen jumpers uncomfortable to wear.
Menopause Allergy Treatments
There is a vast variety of treatment options for allergies and they can include;
- Hormone therapy
- Anti-histamine medication
Lifestyle factors and modifications to diet can also be of benefit to reduce the intensity of allergic flair ups, especially if there are additional known triggers, apart from hormonal fluctuations.
- Drinking more water. Increasing hydration can reduce the drying of the mucus membranes which can contribute to stuffy noses and a generalised heavy feeling in the head.
- Consume adequate protein: Protein is crucial for adequate immune support and may aid in reducing immune system flair ups.
- Avoid allergens. If there are known triggers that make allergies worse, it is imperative these are avoided to prevent further load and burden on the immune system
Keeping a symptom diary about the intensity and frequency of your allergies can aid in developing a tailored treatment approach.
There is a range of natural remedies which may assist in the relief of allergic symptoms and reactions. A combination of herbal and nutritional supplementation may relieve sneezing as well as itching in the nose, throat and eyes.
If your eyes are particularly itchy, saline eye drops may help. For itchy skin, cool nettle tea, along with vitamin C can help to provide relief. Vitamin C is also a natural antihistamine.
As certain allergies can be fatal, due to anaphylaxis and obstruction of airways, it is imperative that these types of allergies are treated with rapid and effective medication and by an allergy specialist.
Talk To Us At Australian Menopause Centre