Headache and Allergies

The relationship between allergies and headaches is unclear. Many people with allergic or infectious nasal problems also have headaches (migraines or sinus headaches). However, sometimes allergies can cause pressure that feels like a headache, and sometimes headaches can cause allergy-like symptoms. It is not always clear whether your symptoms are caused by allergies or by a headache.

CAUSES

  • Migraine: The cause of a migraine is not always known.

  • Sinus Headache: The cause of a sinus headache may be a sinus infection. Other conditions that may be related to sinus headaches include:

  • Hay fever (allergic rhinitis).

  • Deviation of the nasal septum.

  • Swelling or clogging of the nasal passages.

SYMPTOMS

Migraine headache symptoms (which often last 4 to 72 hours) include:

  • Intense, throbbing pain on one or both sides of the head.

  • Nausea.

  • Vomiting.

  • Being extra sensitive to light.

  • Being extra sensitive to sound.

  • Nervous system reactions that appear similar to an allergic reaction:

  • Stuffy nose.

  • Runny nose.

  • Tearing.

Sinus headaches are felt as facial pain or pressure.

DIAGNOSIS

Because there is some overlap in symptoms, sinus and migraine headaches are often misdiagnosed. For example, a person with migraines may also feel facial pressure. Likewise, many people with hay fever may get migraine headaches rather than sinus headaches. These migraines can be triggered by the histamine release during an allergic reaction. An antihistamine medicine can eliminate this pain.

There are standard criteria that help clarify the difference between these headaches and related allergy or allergy-like symptoms. Your caregiver can use these criteria to determine the proper diagnosis and provide you the best care.

TREATMENT

Migraine medicine may help people who have persistent migraine headaches even though their hay fever is controlled. For some people, anti-inflammatory treatments do not work to relieve migraines. Medicines called triptans (such as sumatriptan) can be helpful for those people.