Coughing, watery eyes, maybe wheezing a bit now and again? New food allergies, courtesy of perimenopause? Even menopause-induced hives?*

If these symptoms are new or feel worse than they have in the past, it could be your hormones to blame.

Like so many menopause mysteries, the research is lagging behind, so we don’t yet have definitive answers, but certainly many women report new or worsening symptoms of all of the above. And as women are more prone than men to asthma, and as many women report new allergies in perimenopause and menopause, a link between hormones and allergic disorders seems likely.

Wheezing, itching and burning skin, coughing? It might be time to talk with a menopause specialist.
Book an appointment via genneve telehealth, and get your questions answered

Estrogen and Allergies/Inflammation

So what’s the link between menopause and allergies and asthma? Estrogen. That's right, hormone imbalance allergies are a real thing.

As we know, there are estrogen receptors all over the body, including on immunoregulatory cells. And estrogen, it appears, may skew the body’s response toward allergy and inflammation. This is generally held in check by progesterone, but in perimenopause and menopause, when levels of progesterone are low, asthma, allergies, even hay fever may appear or get worse.

A study in Northern Europe included over 2,300 women and tracked their respiratory health from 2000 to 2012. They found the “odds of getting asthma were more than twice as high for women going through the menopausal transition or after menopause, compared to non-menopausal women.” That risk rose further for women who were overweight or obese.

When it comes to asthma specifically, it may actually be the fluctuation of estrogen levels that produce the inflammatory response in a woman’s airways. Many women may have noticed symptoms rising and falling in severity with period cycles or pregnancy, indicating hormones are at least in part responsible.

So what to do?

Asthma and allergies can be frightening, particularly if they’re new or more dramatic than in the past. But there are things you can do to manage symptoms and catch an attack early.

Know your cycles. Maeve O’Connor, allergist and immunologist from Charlotte, NC, says, “Most hospitalizations for asthma in women occur around the peri-menstrual stage of the menstrual cycle –- right before a woman’s period begins. This is when estrogen levels drop down to almost zero.” When cycles are irregular, as in perimenopause, you may be able to tell if a period is coming by tracking lung power with a peak flow meter. If your lung power has dropped, a period may be on the horizon.

Knowing your cycles can help you understand what’s happening in your body and stay calm when breathing gets more difficult.

Use maintenance medications as prescribed. It’s better for your lungs to manage symptoms rather than treat an attack once its started.

Know your triggers. And avoid them, obviously. This counts for both asthma and allergies and is especially important if you’re at a stage in your cycle when you may be more vulnerable to triggers.

Reduce exposure to allergens. Clean often. Dust. Change bedding frequently. Vacuum. Be vigilant about mold. The more you can keep dust and mites (ugh, we know) and other allergens to a minimum, the better.

Manage your weight. Perimenopausal and menopausal women who are overweight have a greater risk of developing respiratory issues, so controlling weight as best you can may help minimize risk.

Quit smoking. Obviously, smoking is an irritant to your respiratory organs, so quit if you can, reduce if you can’t.

Consider hormones. If asthma worsens to the point where it’s dangerous or limiting your life, you may want to consider hormone replacement. Again, this is an area where causes and effects are not well understood. In some women, HRT may worsen symptoms, particularly if the asthma is new. For women who have had asthma prior to menopause, HRT may help.

Women with asthma are hospitalized more often than men. Women’s mortality rates from asthma are significantly higher than men’s. But asthma is treatable. If you’re experiencing symptoms that could be asthma or allergies, talk with your doctor right away. Get started on a management plan that will make it easier for you to live your life your way.

Do you have hormone-related asthma or allergies? How have you handled your condition? Please share with us by commenting here, or joining the conversation in our community forums. You can also reach out to us on genneve’s public Facebook page or in our closed Facebook group.

*This website is not intended to replace a doctor's professional care. If you're experiencing symptoms such as difficulty breathing, coughing, wheezing, etc., please consult with your doctor right away.