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Can hormones impact hay fever?

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Reviewed byHeeral Patel

Lady outdoors in front of ocean with happy expression
Noticed hay fever symptoms during pregnancy or menopause? We’ll help you find out whether your hormones could play a part in seasonal allergies.
Allergies happen when your immune system reacts to something that’s normally harmless.1 And your hormones can play a part in your immune system.2,3,4

If you've noticed a sudden onset of hay fever symptoms during pregnancy or menopause, you might be wondering if there’s a link...

Why do allergies happen?

Hay fever is an allergic reaction to pollen. During an allergic reaction, the immune system releases a chemical called histamine.5

Histamine works to expel the allergen from the body, which is why you sneeze, itch, and get a runny nose.6

Can hormones play a part?

Normal fluctuations in your hormones don’t cause allergies. But oestrogen and progesterone can affect histamine levels:
  • oestrogen can enhance histamine release 4,2,7 
  • progesterone can stabilise the cells responsible for histamine release 3
A healthy immune system should be able to handle these changes, so you shouldn’t notice a difference in hay fever symptoms because of normal hormone fluctuations.

That said, extreme hormonal changes like puberty and menopause could trigger the onset of hay fever or cause a noticeable ‘flareup’.7

Are my symptoms hay fever?

First, look for changes in your symptoms according to:
  • the weather 
  • the places you visit 
  • your children's and pets’ habits 
  • the way you wash and dry your clothes
These are all triggers that may be related to seasonal allergies. Speak to a doctor if you still think your hormones may be involved.

Hay fever and pregnancy

Progesterone is a vital hormone for supporting an unborn baby in the womb.9 It’s at its highest while you're pregnant and rises as pregnancy goes on.10

Progesterone slightly downregulates your immune system to allow an embryo to successfully implant and grow, without your body mistaking it as a threat.11

If you’re getting more sniffles while you’re pregnant and don’t have a cold, ‘pregnancy rhinitis’ could be the culprit. Totally unrelated to allergies, the hormonal changes provoke hay fever-like symptoms that’ll eventually go away.12 Speak to your doctor if you think you have pregnancy rhinitis for further advice.

How to handle it

1. Track your symptoms

You can use a diary or any existing trackers you have (like a period calendar) to note down any hay fever symptoms.

Different plants and environments can trigger people differently, so it’s possible you’ll notice patterns in your daily or weekly routine. Maybe you’re fine at the park, but the football field sets you off...?

2. Keep an eye on the pollen count

Weather apps can alert you if the pollen count’s set to rise. So, you can rain-check those picnic plans if need be.

3. Eat for hormonal health

Limit your alcohol intake – it often contains histamine, which is what sets your hay fever off in the first place.13

According to Allergy UK, the following foods may also be a trigger for histamine release: 14 
  • oranges, bananas, pineapple, grapes, and strawberries 
  • tomatoes, aubergine, and spinach 
  • peanuts and tree nuts 
  • fermented soya products like miso and tempeh 
  • cured and processed meats 
  • coffee and chocolate 
  • certain cheeses, including cheddar and blue cheese
But everyone’s different, so if you’re safe to eat these foods normally then there’s no need to cut them out. Consider keeping a food diary to see if anything increases your symptoms.

4. Get help from your doctor

If hay fever really interrupts your daily life and general allergy care suggested by your pharmacist isn’t working, your GP might be able to help with alternative treatment options.6

5. Use self-care and home care

Carry eye drops or nasal sprays with you when you’re out and about, especially if you think you’re going to flare up. Grab a few and keep them in your bag, car, or in your desk at work.

Shower and change clothes after being outside and dry your clothes inside rather than outdoors to prevent pollen sticking to them.8

You could also wear wraparound sunglasses as they help stop pollen from getting into your eyes.

Other tips:
  • keep windows and doors shut where possible during times of high pollen count 
  • try petroleum jelly under your nose to trap pollen 
  • dust and hoover your home regularly 
  • try using a pollen filter in your vacuum

The final say

Hormones can affect your histamine response, which in turn can affect allergy symptoms. But it usually takes a huge hormonal change to notice anything – and it’s always best to check there aren’t any other underlying reasons.

Your GP can help you if you’re struggling with hay fever symptoms and the usual care isn’t helping.

At the end of the day, hormones should be as easy to talk about as coughs and sneezes! Find our guide to helpful hormone conversations below...

Disclaimer

The advice in this article is for information only and should not replace medical care. Please check with your GP or healthcare professional before trying any supplements, treatments or remedies. Food supplements must not be used as a substitute for a varied and balanced diet and a healthy lifestyle.
 

Sources

1. NHS. Allergies [Internet]. NHS [reviewed 2022 Aug 2; cited 2024 Apr 4]. Available from: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/allergies/ 2. Shah S. Hormonal Link to Immune Allergies. ISRN Allergy [Internet]. 2012 Aug 22 [cited 2024 Apr 4]. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3658477/
3. Zwahlen M, Stute P. Impact of progesterone on the immune system in women: a systematic literature review. Archives of Gynaecology and Obstetrics [Internet]. 2023 Mar 18 [cited 2024 Apr 4]; 309: 37-46. Available from: https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s00404-023-06996-9
4. Bonds RS, Midoro-Horiuti T. Estrogen effects in allergy and asthma. Curr Opin Allergy Clin Immunol [Internet]. 2013 Feb [cited 2024 Apr 4]; 13(1): 92-99. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3537328/
5. Allergy UK. What is an allergy? [Internet]. Allergy UK [cited 2024 Apr 4]. Available from: https://www.allergyuk.org/about-allergy/what-is-an-allergy/
6. NHS. Antihistamines [Internet]. NHS [reviewed 2023 May 16; cited 2024 Apr 4]. Available from: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/antihistamines/
7. Asthma + Lung UK. Female sex hormones and asthma [Internet]. Asthma + Lung UK [reviewed 2024 Mar 13; cited 2024 Apr 4]. Available from: https://www.asthmaandlung.org.uk/conditions/asthma/asthma-triggers/female-sex-hormones-and-asthma
8. NHS. Hay fever [Internet]. NHS [reviewed 2024 Mar 21; cited 2024 Apr 4]. Available from: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/hay-fever/
9. NHS Royal Free London. Progesterone treatment in early pregnancy [Internet]. NHS Royal Free London [reviewed 2022 Apr 1; cited 2024 Apr 4]. Available from: https://www.royalfree.nhs.uk/patients-and-visitors/patient-information-leaflets/progesterone-treatment-early-pregnancy
10. University of Rochester Medical Center. Progesterone [Internet]. University of Rochester Medical Center [cited 2024 Apr 4]. Available from: https://www.urmc.rochester.edu/encyclopedia/content.aspx?ContentTypeID=167&ContentID=progesterone
11. Raghupathy R, Szekeres-Bartho J. Progesterone: A Unique Hormone with Immunomodulatory Roles in Pregnancy. International Journal of Molecular Sciences [Internet]. 2022 Feb [cited 2024 Apr 4]; 23(3): 1333. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8835837/
12. NHS. Non-allergic rhinitis [Internet]. NHS [reviewed 2022 May 31; cited 2024 Apr 4]. Available from: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/non-allergic-rhinitis/
13. Allergy UK. Reactions to alcohol [Internet]. Allergy UK [cited 2024 Apr 4]. Available from: https://www.allergyuk.org/resources/reactions-to-alcohol/
14. Allergy UK. Histamine intolerance [Internet]. Allergy UK [cited 2024 Apr 4]. Available from: https://www.allergyuk.org/resources/histamine-intolerance/
 

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