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Women and Allergies: An Update with Cliff Bassett, MD

Dr. Cliff Bassett is an allergy specialist in New York City. We recently discussed the differences between men and women when it comes to allergies. You can listen to our conversation or read on for a synopsis of the discussion.

**Listen To The Podcast**

Seasonal Allergies & Women

Women don’t always realize that nasal stuffiness may be a sign of an underlying medical condition or a side effect of medications. Low thyroid (hypothyroidism), taking oral contraceptive pills, or frequent use of aspirin or NSAIDs (such as Motrin), can actually increase the risk for nasal stuffiness. Some studies also suggest that hormone fluctuations can increase nasal congestion and allergy sensitivity. So women in particular need to be aware of their unique allergy triggers and get treatment from an allergy specialist when necessary.

Food Allergies & Women

A recent study suggested that women are twice as likely to have seafood allergies than men (4% versus 2%). The reason for this difference is unclear, and it may be related to increased vigilance on the part of women to get tested and diagnosed. However, food allergies are certainly on the rise in this country. I suspect it might have to do with the increasing use of stomach acid blockers. The medicines change the pH (or acidity) of the stomach environment and may influence the way that proteins are being broken down and absorbed by the body. Another theory is that dieting can lead to increasing food allergies – as women eat more protein and fewer carbohydrates, they become exposed to more protein allergens and develop intolerances to them. Ultimately we don’t know for sure what’s contributing to the increase of food allergies in this country, but the good news is that you can easily get tested and treated for them.

Drug Allergies & Women

Some studies suggest that penicillin allergies are more common in women than men. Anyone who has an allergic parent is at higher risk for having an allergic condition. If both parents are affected, your chances are 50-75% that you’ll have a similar allergic profile.

Moms: Be a Label DetectiveA law was passed in 2006 that requires all food products to be carefully labeled regarding whether or not they contain any of the 8 most common food allergens. Moms need to become familiar with all the possible names of ingredients that are related to their (or their child’s) food allergen. So for example “casein” is a form of milk protein, and should be avoided if the allergic individual has milk sensitivities. Also, be very wary of hidden sources of allergens – the glaze on pastries may contain egg proteins and traces of nuts may be hidden in cakes and breads. When dining out it’s always good to carry an allergy card for the chef so he/she can make sure that the food you order doesn’t contain any offending ingredients. The website has a great list of tips for avoiding exposure to food allergens. I highly recommend it as a resource for women taking care of food allergic children.This post originally appeared on Dr. Val’s blog at

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One Response to “Women and Allergies: An Update with Cliff Bassett, MD”

  1. RH Host Melissa says:

    This is a very interesting study Dr. Val.  And I love that moms have another feather in our cap–we’re label detectives as well :)   I just love that term for some odd reason, lol. 

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