Here's Why Women May Experience More Severe Allergic Reactions Than Men

First Posted: Dec 29, 2014 05:01 PM EST

Women are more likely to suffer from more severe allergic reactions than men. According to recent findings published in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology, hormones might have something to do with it.

Estradiol, a type of estrogen, was found to enhance the activity of an allergic reaction-driving enzyme found in mice, according to the National Institute of Health (NIH). This provided further information on why women tend to have worse allergic reactions than men when it comes to male counterparts, as well as certain gender differences in animal experiments.

"More women than men are admitted to hospitals for anaphylaxis, and that tells you something is going on here," said Dean Metcalfe, chief of NIAID's Laboratory of Allergic Diseases and an author of a study released Monday in The Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology, via The Washington Post. "Too often these gender differences are not focused on. We need to be better at associating diseases with gender."

The study results showed that estrogen influences blood vessels by enhancing levels of endothelial nitric oxide synthase (eNOS.) If eNOS was blocked, however, the gender disparity in severity was greatly reduced. The same was true when the mice were given estrogen-blocking treatments.

Previous studies have shown that women are typically more prone to anaphylaxis allergic reactions, in which the immune cells release an enzyme that causes tissues to swell, along with difficulty breathing and potential heart attack, in more rare cases.

However, researchers concluded that more research will be needed in order to determine if the effects are similar in people. 

"While the study has identified a clear role for estrogen and eNOS in driving severe anaphylactic reactions in female mice, more work is needed to see if the effects are similar in people and may be applied toward future preventive therapies," the researchers stated.

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