You wake up one morning and look out onto a beautiful bright and sunny day. Your attention turns to all the fun little trips and activities you can enjoy in the lovely weather. Queue peaceful picnics and leisurely walks out and about! But then you remember: a day like this is likely to bring with it the side effects of your allergies. Queue runny noses, watery eyes, and a pounding headache. Add migraine into the mix, and your allergies can make your day really quite unpleasant.
Allergies can be a pain in the neck – and the head. In fact, allergy-induced headaches can be associated with two different conditions linked with head pain: sinus headaches and migraine attacks. The two are pretty similar. Both, after all, cause pressure in the sinuses, as well as blocked noses and pain that becomes more intense with certain movements. But they also have some important distinctions:
- Sinus Headache Symptoms: fever, weakened sense of smell, bad breath, toothache at the top of the mouth.
- Migraine Attack Symptoms: sensitivity to light and sound, nausea and vomiting, throbbing sensation, pain in one or both sides of the head.
Many people’s first assumption when it comes to allergies and head pain is that they are suffering from a sinus headache. But sinus headaches are actually quite rare. In most cases, individuals suspecting a sinus headache are actually experiencing a migraine attack. After all, those who suffer from allergies are ten times more likely than individuals who do not suffer from allergies to experience migraine attacks.
Can my allergies really trigger a migraine attack?
The exact connection between allergies and headaches is yet to be confidently established. There is, however, growing evidence to suggest that the two are linked. This evidence is largely concerned with the nervous system, the immune system, and the endocrine (or hormonal) system. After all, both allergies and migraine involve the body reacting to something it believes to pose a danger.
Allergic reactions are the body’s responses to allergens involving the immune system. The body believes the allergens to be a source of harm. It then triggers the immune system to release chemicals which cause inflammation. This inflammation is then felt through the common allergy symptoms – including headaches.
Migraine, meanwhile, is a condition associated with the nervous system. If you suffer from migraine attacks, your nervous system is very sensitive and believes certain internal or external changes to be threatening to the body.
What management techniques can I use?
One of the first steps to take is to get your allergies under control. Doctors can identify precisely what you are allergic to and the treatments most useful to keeping your reactions under control. These treatments might include over-the-counter medications like antihistamines. Treatments for allergies, however, do not double-up as treatments for migraine attacks. One option includes taking prescribed medications like triptans or alternative therapies.
Whilst allergies and migraine attacks are difficult to completely avoid, you may be able to avoid some of your triggers. These might include certain foods and drinks, certain weather conditions (wind, for example, can trigger dust allergies), and lack of sleep and/or exercise. A migraine diary is the perfect way to help you get to grips with your triggers, and to help you make the lifestyle changes to help you live as pain-free as possible!