Hormones and the body's immune system are interconnected. It's no wonder, then, that when the female body goes through hormonal transitions - such as during puberty, menstruation, pregnancy, and menopause - allergies can become worse or newly appear.
As women approach menopause, many begin to experience a heightened sensitivity to allergies that previously had only subtle effects, or new allergies might spring up seemingly out of nowhere. Therefore, it's important to understand allergies in relation to menopause, their causes, and different the treatment options available. Continue reading to learn all about allergies during menopause.
Allergies are present when a person's immune system reacts abnormally to foreign substances that are typically harmless to most people. Perhaps the most common example is an allergy to pollen. In this case, pollen would be known as an allergen.
When a person is allergic to something, the immune system mistakenly identifies the substance as harmful, and in an attempt to protect the body, produces a type of antibody at the source of an allergic reaction, known as an IgE antibody. These antibodies spark chemical reactions in certain cells, namely the release histamine into the bloodstream. Many people, especially allergy sufferers, are familiar with histamine, which is the compound that inflames tissue and is responsible for runny noses, sneezing, rashes, and other symptoms of an allergic reaction. For those with allergies, histamine becomes part of an allergic response that can range from relatively minor symptoms to life-threatening, full-body reactions.
Symptoms of allergies
Because there is such a wide array of allergies different people can have, the symptoms vary as well. Allergy symptoms can range from mild to severe, and some allergies can cause multiple symptoms in an individual. An extremely severe allergic reaction is called anaphylaxis. Although anaphylaxis is rare, if not treated, it can cause very serious health concerns or even death. Below are allergy symptoms, separated into mild, moderate, and severe.
Types of allergies
Many people have allergies to animal fur and dander, pollen, and certain types of food. However, virtually anything can trigger an allergic reaction. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recognizes eight foods or food compounds as being common allergens: peanuts, tree nuts, eggs, milk, shellfish, fish, wheat, soy, and sulphites (compounds often found in flavors and colors in foods). The world is filled with potential allergens, which create various types of allergies. Those common types are the following:
Did You Know?
One recent study determined that perimenopausal women who'd not had their periods for six months experienced an 80% increase in respiratory symptoms associated with asthma compared to those who were menstruating regularly.
Hay fever. This is the most common allergic reaction and refers to seasonal nasal symptoms that are due to pollen.
Asthma. This is a breathing problem that results from the inflammation and spasm of the lungs' air passages.
Allergic eyes. This is inflammation of the tissue layers that cover the surface of the eyeball and the underside of the eyelid.
Allergic eczema. This is an allergic rash that is usually not caused by skin contact with an allergen. It's usually associated with hay fever of asthma.
Hives. These are skin reactions that appear as itchy swellings and can occur on any part of the body.
Allergic shock. This is a life-threatening allergic reaction that can affect a number of organs at the same time. This response typically occurs when a food allergen is eaten or when a sufferer is stung by a bee.
Continue reading below to find out more information about the causes of allergies during menopause.
Causes of Allergies
Allergies stem from reactions the immune system provokes in the body. Different cells in the immune system are influenced by estrogen. Whenever hormonal fluctuations occur, the immune system can be impacted and make a woman more prone to allergies.
Did You Know?
If neither parent has allergies, the chance that a child will have allergies is about 12%. If one parent is allergic, the risk increases to 30 - 50%, and if both are allergic, the risk is greater than 60 - 80%.
As menopause approaches, a woman's body prepares to cease menstruation permanently. In order to prepare for this, hormone production drastically decreases.
Hormone level fluctuations can have a significant impact on both the incidence of allergies and the severity of allergy symptoms. Although the mechanisms are not always well understood, changes in hormone levels are frequently associated with the development of allergies or changes in allergy symptoms, particularly hay fever, asthma, and dermatitis.
Triggers of allergies
Along with hormonal causes of allergies, other factors can increase susceptibility to allergies or intensify symptoms. Some of those factors include diet, certain medications, and stress.
Continue reading to learn more about the treatment options available for allergies during menopause.
Fortunately, there are numerous treatment options available for women who are suffering from allergies. When managing symptoms, it is important to begin with the least risky treatment options first.
This means that lifestyle changes are the best place to begin to search for alleviation from allergies. For instance, try shutting the windows of the house to prevent pollen from entering, or get an air filter that can drastically reduce allergic particles in the air. These are just a couple examples of altering habits around the house to stymie allergies.
Typically, combining lifestyle changes and alternative medicine will produce the best outcome. Alternative medicine can be different herbs and supplements or even techniques like aromatherapy, though some methods are more effective than others. When seeking out alternative medicine, keep in mind that allergies are associated with hormones and look for a treatment that balances hormone levels, as this will go a long way in subduing allergic reactions.
Finally, if symptoms still persist even after implementing the first two approaches, there are multitudes of different medications or desensitization treatment that can be explored. For instance, allergy shots, prescribed drugs, or over-the-counter medications can bring relief. However, this approach generally comes with the most side effects.
Click on the following link to learn specific treatments for allergies, which begin with lifestyle changes, move onto alternative medicine, and finally, if those options don't seem to help, medications. The most effective treatments for allergies typically combine lifestyle changes and alternative medicine.
- Bonds, R.S. & Midoro-Horiuti, T. (2013). Estrogen effects in allergy and asthma. Current Opinion in Allergy and Clinical Immunology, 13(1), 92-99. Retrieved from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3537328/
- Chad, Z. (2001). Allergies in children. Paediatrics & Child Health, 6(8), 555-566. Retrieved from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2805592/
- National Institutes of Health. (2014). Allergies. Retrieved April 25, 2016, from https://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/000812.htm