Surely it’s not another cold? Could it be asthma? Or what about hayfever? Whatever it is, you seem to be coughing, sneezing and wheezing all over the place.
Come to think of it, your skin is itchy and bumpy too of late. It’s like your whole body is having an allergic attack...
Now, this is one of the lesser-known symptoms, but allergies in the menopause do pop up more often or get worse.
One scientific theory is that wobbling and dropping hormone levels prompt your body to make more histamine, which then makes you sneeze or cough to expel the perceived allergic threat.
Another is that your immune system is weakened or hypersensitive due to falling midlife hormones, so you are more susceptible to allergies, colds and flu. It may also make you react more strongly to harmless allergens like toiletries, household cleaners, paint and other scented products.
That’s why you now have eczema, hay fever or hives, headaches and bunged-up sinuses. You could possibly feel light-headed, tired or find it hard to concentrate too.
Women can even be more sensitive if they are taking oestrogen supplements.
TOP TIPS FOR YOU
You don’t have to make your way through menopause with a permanently drippy nose, keep your windows permanently closed or buy an air filter for every room.
There are lifestyle changes you can make, and medications you can take, to ease allergies that emerge during this part of your life.
SEEK MEDICAL HELP
If any of your suddenly inherited allergies cause you to be severely short of breath or develop anaphylactic shock (where your airways are obstructed) then call an ambulance.
If your symptoms are less scary but still persistent, then see your doctor. You could be referred to an allergy clinic for testing or be given an adrenaline auto-injector to carry with you at all times.
There are many over-the-counter medications you can take to ease allergy symptoms including antihistamines, painkillers and decongestants.
But did you know that Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT) may also help? HRT replaces the hormones that your body is naturally losing due to the menopause, and can reduce your symptoms.
There are a number of ways you can take HRT medications, including tablets, patches and creams. Most women can take HRT but there are some risks, which your doctor should discuss with you.
If you’re new to allergies in menopause, it may take some detective work to find out what’s causing your symptoms.
Keeping a symptom diary about the intensity and frequency of your allergies can help you create a focused approach to feeling better. Find out what’s setting you off – then you can avoid triggers or treat individual reactions.
PUMP UP YOUR DIET
Did you know there are foods that can help you ward off allergies?
Protein crucially supports your immune system and helps keep it calm. Eat more lean meat, fish, tofu, beans, lentils, low-fat dairy products, seeds, nuts and eggs.
Citrus fruits, garlic and onions boost your immune system too. Salmon, mackerel and sardines will also top up your Omega 3 stores and reduce inflammation caused by allergies. If you don’t eat fish, you can munch on mushrooms, walnuts, flaxseeds, or dark leafy greens instead.
WORK WITH NATURE
Calm your symptoms and reactions with natural remedies.
Take Polynesian hay fever tablets. Made from herbs, these don’t meddle with other medication, work well with HRT and contraceptives, and are non-drowsy.
Use natural eye drops containing the herb eyebright for itchy eyes. And if you have irritable skin, drink nettle tea or take natural antihistamine vitamin C to give you some relief.
Drink more water to stop your mucus membranes from drying out. This can help de-stuff your nose and get rid of that heavy feeling in your head.
STRETCH AND RELAX
Exercise, in general, is a great general health booster, so it helps to strengthen your immune system as well as combat many annoying trappings of the menopause-like weight gain, anxiety and difficulty sleeping.
Even better if you choose to don your leggings and take part in a yoga or pilates class. These don’t just tone you up and stretch you out, they teach breathing and relaxation techniques that help ease asthma and other breathing difficulties.
TOP TIPS FOR OTHERS
Sometimes it’s not as simple as taking an antihistamine when everything in the atmosphere seems to set her off.
Tackling allergies, or making them more bearable, can be a jigsaw puzzle. Give her your support by piecing it together as a team.
OUR ADVICE TO HER
Our advice for this symptom includes having over-the-counter antihistamines to hand and keeping a diary to see what sets their allergies off.
We’ve also recommended she considers Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT), as this may help.
More info on all of these top tips is on the ‘For her’ section of this page. Take a look.
ENCOURAGE HER TO SPEAK TO A DOCTOR
If her allergies are persistent or seem to be getting worse, gently encourage her to speak to a GP. You could even offer to go to the appointment with her to show your support.
If she is severely short of breath or develops anaphylactic shock (where her airways are obstructed) then call an ambulance.
MAKE A WEEKLY MEAL PLAN
When she develops allergies, it’s really important she gets enough lean protein, citrus fruits, garlic, onions and fish rich in Omega-3 in her diet as they all support her immune system and reduce inflammation.
Make eating fun again. Plan meals ahead, shop for the ingredients together and share the cooking. You could even sign up for a cookery class together to learn some new culinary skills.
SUGGEST A SUPPLEMENT
If she’s worried she’s not getting enough Omega-3 from her diet, she may benefit from taking a supplement.
Polynesian hay fever tablets, natural eye drops containing the herb eyebright, and drinking nettle tea or taking extra vitamin C may help with itchy eyes and skin too.
Why not gently ask if she’s tried anything like that? Let her know she can find loads of reputable suppliers over on our nutrition page.
CREATE BREATHING SPACE
No, we’re not saying leave her alone. We mean actually breathe together.
Slow, deep breaths initiate the parasympathetic nervous system, which has a calming effect and can lower her stress levels. Taking time together to practice and improve your breathing means you’re more likely to keep up with it.
ASK HER TO EXPLAIN
Don’t assume you know what her allergies feel like. Gently ask her to explain the effect it is having on her physically and emotionally.
You may not be able to do anything to make her feel better. But she may not want answers, she may just need to talk – and be properly heard. Switch your listening ears on and give her your full attention.