I’ve got you – under my skin! [Allergic reactions and the menopause]

Many years ago, when he was very young, I discovered that one of my sons suffered from allergic reactions to wheat, soy, dairy and eggs. So for the first five years his birthday cake was just a candle. Well, not really – but it’s a good story!

But, think about when we’re a bit under the weather, we have a headache or develop a cough, a sniffle or unexplained rash I’m sure many of us have brushed the problem aside with the excuse “it’s all to do with my age and the change”. Well we might be right, because developing allergic reactions is a lesser known symptom of, yes you guessed it – the dreaded menopause. In fact, it often occurs through the PERImenopause, which is the time leading up to the menopause itself. It varies for us from woman to woman, but is usually between 2 to 10 years. Allergies, headaches, dry eyes and respiratory symptoms such as asthma are often caused by allergens, and our menopause with its hormonal changes can cause the immune system to react in a different way when exposed to different allergens that were once harmless in the past
For those of us who have or are going through the perimenopause it’s possible to already be suffering from allergies developed during childhood and which we’ve had through life. But allergies are funny old things and can develop at times when the body is under stress. Stress is often caused when there is a significant hormonal imbalance, which occurs during puberty, pregnancy, menstruation and of course at the time of menopause itself. During these fluctuations in hormonal levels extra strain is put on the adrenal glands which when fatigued become susceptible to allergies.
The perimenopause is a particularly stressful time, our energy levels are down and our body is at a low, reducing the immune system’s effectiveness in fighting off allergens. However, one culprit and cause of severe allergy when we’re menopausal is associated with the hormone progesterone, and symptoms can vary from rashes to life threatening anaphylactic shock.
So we have to take care. Allergens are in the foods we eat, in products we inhale, come into contact with or that we apply to our skin. The list of allergens is huge. And reactions to them vary greatly from one woman to the next, as is their effect and treatment. This will depend on the type, level of exposure and our individual reaction and immune response. There are typical allergic symptoms to allergens during menopause which include acne, rosacea, psoriasis and seborrheic dermatitis [something else to look forward to!]. But, as I always say, if in doubt go to your GP who may prescribe medications to give relief for these problems. The menopause, allergies and healthy solutions for them are an unholy trinity for the medical profession – but they are doing their best to find a solution.

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