Menopausal Changes May Trigger Allergies in Middle-Aged Women

Patient Expert

Have you noticed that you're more congested than normal? Are you developing sinus headaches when you've never had them? If so, it may be due to your body going through the menopausal transition.

It turns out that menopause can trigger allergies due to the hormonal changes that go with menopause. Additionally, aging can cause the body's immune system to become more susceptible to allergies due to pollen, dust mites and mold.

The American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology reports that one in five people in the United States have allergies. Allergic reactions can show up in the nose, throat, eyes, lungs, skin, stomach or intestines; however, they rarely affect the whole body. The various types of allergies include cockroach allergies, drug allergies, dust allergy, eye allergies, food allergies, insect sting allergies, latex allergies, mold allergies, pet allergies, rhinitis, sinusitis and skin allergies. There are also two less common allergies - chlorine allergy and pine tree allergy.

Researchers have found that allergies are most often linked to your genetic background, although symptoms may not show up until later in life when the exposure to allergens builds up in your system. Allergies can be triggered in older adults because of high levels of pollution, mold and dust in the home, having a pet or being in an environment that has a lot of allergens. Additionally some viruses such as the respiratory syncytial virus and the common cold can trigger allergies in people who are already inclined because of heredity.

To determine what's causing your allergies, I'd encourage you to go see a board-certified allergist-immunologist who will arrange testing to identify your allergies.   Once tested, you'll be prescribed medication, immunotherapy and/or prevention.

Prevention means taking action against potential allergies that can be caused by things in your environment. The best way to ease allergic symptoms is to avoid these allergens altogether, although that's not always easy.   You also can try to control allergens in the following ways:

  • Dust mites - Avoid bedding that is stuffed with foam rubber or kapok. Use dust-proof covers on pillows, mattresses and box springs; remove these covers regularly and clean them. Avoid overstuffed furniture and down-filled bedding and pillows. Wash your bedding weekly in water that's hotter than 130 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • Pollens from grasses, trees and weeds - Close windows during pollen season, especially during the day when pollens are released by plants. Also remain inside if at all possible during the late morning/afternoon hours since pollen counts tend to be highest during these times. After working or playing outdoors, be sure to bathe, wash your hair and change your clothes.
  • Pet allergies due to animal dander - Wash your hands after petting the animal and bathe the pet once a week. Keep the pet outdoors or restricted to a few rooms (and don't let the animal into the bedroom).
  • Mold - Mold can form on wallboards, wood or fabric, and thrives in damp basements, closets, bathrooms, showers, places where fresh food is stored, refrigerator drip trays, air conditioners, garbage pails, mattresses, upholstered furniture, old foam pillows and house plants. Be sure to clean these areas regularly and keep them well-aired. Also, avoid using humidifiers and consider installing dehumidifiers in areas such as the basement. Limit the number of houseplants that you keep in the home. Remove laundry from the washing machine promptly after the wash cycle is completed.
  • Irritants such as smoke, odors, cold air and exhaust - Try to avoid these irritants through not using them (tobacco, wood burning fireplaces, perfume) or limiting their use (like warming up the car in an attached garage).
  • Cockroaches - Reduce available food and moisture to keep them away. Keep your kitchen area clean and wash dishes promptly. Store all foods in sealed containers. Regularly empty garbage and recycle bins. Seal cracks in your home where these bugs can come in.

Other tips to reduce allergens in your house include:

  • Use a mask and gloves when you're cleaning, vacuuming or painting. Also vacuum your home's floors twice a week.
  • Opt for hardwood floors or tiles instead of carpets to limit collection of dust and chemicals. Limit the use of throw rugs and wash them regularly.
  • Avoid using Venetian blinds and long drapes to cover windows; instead, replace old drapes with window shades.
  • Filter indoor air using cheesecloth coverings on air conditioning vents. Additionally, clean air filters frequently and air ducts annually. Use a high efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filter if you home has a forced air furnace.

Primary Sources for This Sharepost:

American College of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology. (ND). Allergist.

Cleveland Clinic. (2012). Environment management for allergies.

Mitchell, H. (2014). Burning question: I'm a grown-up. Why am I getting allergies now? The Wall Street Journal.