Do Your Allergies Get Worse During Menopause? | Stella
Your body
9 mins

Menopause and allergies – what’s the link?

byDr. Nick Morse

Have you been sneezing more recently, have itchy skin, teary eyes, or even a new food allergy? Read on to discover if there is a link between menopause, hormones, and allergies.

What are allergies?

Your immune system usually does a fantastic job of identifying and removing threats, including harmful germs like bacteria and viruses, as well as damaged cells within your body. But this task requires your body to maintain the right balance between not reacting to possible invaders and reacting too much.  

Allergic reactions happen when this balance is lost and your body has an unnecessary reaction to a harmless substance. This substance may be anything from pollen to peanuts or even one of the trillions of harmless organisms that live in and on us at all times. Reactions can range from annoying to life-threatening.

Allergies can affect many different parts of your body, including:

  • Skin (rashes)
  • GI tract
  • Lungs (allergic asthma) 
  • Upper airways (hayfever)

Symptoms may include:

  • Severe reactions including low blood pressure, lip or tongue swelling, and breathing difficulties – also known as anaphylaxis
  • Rashes – often itchy and with a typical appearance known as urticaria or hives
  • Sneezing, congestion, or a runny nose
  • A cough or wheeze
  • Diarrhea or abdominal pain

Hay fever and food allergies are a normal part of life for many of us, but some people develop new or different allergic reactions during menopause.

There is no conclusive evidence and scientists are still debating if there is a link at all.

Some people do report noticing a change to their existing allergies at menopause. Some develop a new allergy to pollen, food, or something else entirely.

Menopause and skin allergies

While research into the link between menopause and allergies is ongoing, many symptoms caused by hormonal changes can be incorrectly blamed on allergies.

These include:

If you have any signs of skin allergies, speak to your healthcare provider for a diagnosis. If things aren’t improving as expected, it might be worth asking whether menopause could be the underlying cause of your symptoms.

Does menopause affect asthma?

Asthma is a common breathing condition, which involves sensitivity to irritants and inflammation in the airways. Some people find that their asthma is triggered or made worse by allergies to common things like pollen, animal dander, and dust mites. This is sometimes called allergic asthma.

The possible link between allergic asthma and menopause has been investigated, but evidence is still lacking. One thorough review article did not find much strong evidence about the links between menopause, asthma, and allergy symptoms. 

Despite the uncertainty around menopause and allergy, there is general consensus that hormonal factors do affect the immune system. This is thought to be due to the way in which estrogen interacts with the regulation of the immune system. More research is needed for us to understand this fully.

What is histamine intolerance?

Histamine is a chemical that plays an important role in many processes within your body. It is an important component of healthy immune responses. If your body incorrectly identifies a substance as a threat – for example, grass pollen in hayfever sufferers – histamine is released. This in turn causes itching eyes, sneezing, and a runny nose – all the symptoms of an allergy.

Histamine levels are usually kept within a narrow range by your body. Cells produce histamine as needed and release it into the bloodstream, where it is broken down and removed from the body.

You may have heard or seen friends, the media, or even some providers talking about “histamine intolerance”, also known as histaminosis. This is often discussed as a medical problem, but there is no strong evidence that it actually exists.

Rather than a reaction to a specific trigger, the idea is that “histamine intolerance” is caused by a build-up of histamine in the body. This concept of “toxin build-up” arises in many areas of health and wellness, but no high-quality studies have proven this happens with histamine and allergies.Occasionally, people do have a disorder called mastocytosis, where certain immune cells are over-reactive and secrete a lot of histamine, but this is rare.

What are the claims about menopause and histamine intolerance?

Some claim that histamine levels peak at times when your estrogen levels are high. Spikes in estrogen levels are common in perimenopause and it is proposed that these could lead to a build-up of histamine, but science does not support this thinking. 

What should you do if you have an increase in allergic symptoms?

Speak to your healthcare provider if you are experiencing symptoms that are commonly ascribed to histamine intolerance. To date, research has neither identified a cause of histamine intolerance nor a diagnostic test for it, but your symptoms could be due to another medical condition and should be checked out.

You should also see your healthcare provider if you are having new or more severe allergic reactions to any substance. Your healthcare provider may want to run some checks to rule out other conditions. 

What treatments are available for allergies and menopause?

Treatments for allergies at menopause are the same as for allergies experienced at any other time of your life. Depending on which part of your body is affected, your healthcare provider may recommend tablets, creams, inhalers, or other treatments.

Speak to your healthcare provider to find out which is the best option for you.

Would hormone therapy (HT) help?

HT is not routinely recommended to treat allergies alone during menopause. This is because we do not yet have enough evidence that there is a link between the two. Likewise, HT is not a treatment for “histamine intolerance”. 

It is worth noting that HT is the most effective treatment for several menopause symptoms, including hot flashes, poor sleep, and mood changes. Speak to your healthcare provider to find out whether HT is a recommended treatment option for you.

Can antihistamines help with menopause?

Antihistamines are useful in treating several medical conditions including allergies and itch. They are not generally used to treat menopause symptoms. Your healthcare provider will be able to advise on the best treatment options for you.

Final word

While hormonal changes may be linked to allergic conditions, evidence is still emerging about the exact nature of this relationship. If you are struggling with any allergy symptoms, see your healthcare provider for advice on diagnosis and treatment options.

Find out more about menopause on our blog or in our symptoms library.