Most women are familiar with the usual signals of impending menopause: hot flashes, mood swings, skin changes, night sweats, etc. But there are a number of menopause-related symptoms that tend to go undiagnosed, leading to significant frustration and a lack of treatment. If you’re in the perimenopausal age group (generally, women in their 40s) and you’ve experienced a sudden worsening of allergic reactions or a spate of new allergies, it may be related to the changes in hormone production that you’re experiencing!
Allergies Respond to Hormones
Scientists have known for decades that allergic reactions caused by histamines can change depending on hormone fluctuations caused by a normal menstrual cycle. In other words, the level of histamine – a hormone that is triggered by allergens and binds to receptors that cause symptoms like itching and swelling – in your body is directly related to the amount of estrogen your body is creating.
Of course, this is extremely relevant to menopause, as your body contains frequently fluctuating levels of estrogen that then lead to spikes in the production of histamine. This means that your body is, at times, more sensitive to allergens than usual. In turn, you might experience worsened congestion due to seasonal allergies, or you may find that foods that you were previously able to eat now cause hives.
In rare cases, you may actually be allergic to the very hormones that your body is producing, in addition to experiencing an increased sensitivity to allergens. Although an allergy to your body’s hormones is typically diagnosed in the menstrual years, it may not crop up until later, when your histamine receptors are more active. The most common form is Autoimmune Progesterone Dermatitis, which causes a number of types of skin rash.
Regardless of the specific allergy, it’s important to talk to your doctor about any rashes or other allergic reactions that you experience, as it is possible for any new allergy to progress into life-threatening anaphylaxis. Your doctor can help you identify the triggers of your allergies.
Alternatively, if increased allergies are severe or paired with other menopausal symptoms that significantly affect your quality of life, your doctor may also suggest hormone replacement therapy with low-dose birth control, or various lifestyle changes. Menopause is a fact of life, but it doesn’t have to be a disruption to your daily routine.