News & Research, Triggers

Allergies & Migraine

People with nasal allergies may have a greater incidence of migraine, according to a recent study. The study, which had 294 participants, found that 34% of people with hay fever (aka allergic rhinitis) had migraine symptoms; only 4% of participants without hay fever had such symptoms.

But don’t jump to conclusions!

This study doesn’t prove that migraines are caused by allergies. Instead it’s that people who have migraine might have the condition triggered by hay fever. These folks already have headache disorders, but the allergies may be what triggers them to come out of the woodwork. (This is how all triggers work — they don’t cause migraine, but put an already present condition into action.)

These findings also do not contradict research that says that 90% of what patients and doctors classify as sinus headache is actually migraine. That’s not necessarily true. The results may in fact reinforce the previous studies. People with allergies may be more likely to have migraine-like symptoms than those without. That doesn’t mean that those in the 34% were suffering from sinus headaches. They could be having migraines that are triggered by the allergies.

Debates about allergies and headaches are likely to go on forever. In addition to the research that I’ve read, my obvious bias is also influenced by anecdotal “evidence.” I spent a long time treating allergies and visiting allergists to treat my headaches. After two allergists in one practice said I didn’t have allergies, I found another one who did. I did this before I was diagnosed with migraine, but, migraine or not, allergy treatments didn’t help. Many people tell me similar stories. Again, stories aren’t enough to make something medical fact, but they may help you not waste precious time in treating your headaches.

Tanks, Pam for bringing this important article to my attention!

9 thoughts on “Allergies & Migraine”

  1. Okay, have to put my 2 cents worth in on this topic. For years I have had severe headaches – always felt like sinus headaches – between my eyes – Seem to ease with a steady pinch to the top of my nose. Back and forth to family doctor, then allergist, then allergist to neurologist, neurologist back to allergist…..the neurologist said I was having rebound headaches – had to stop all OTC meds for 30 days and take nothing but Replax migraine medicine if I had a headache come on that was bad. I thought he was crazy – HE WASN’T. it was amazing – he was right! Headaches became infrequent; however, not gone. Went back to allergist for testing (allergy triggers) – turns out I was allergic to everything on the form and even 7 different foods…so started allergy shots. It’s been almost a year and I don’t get the migraines like I used to and when I do, I take Replax. the allergist made me promise to give him 6 months to see results and I have. So, I’m a believer in allergies triggering migraines! BUT, I also believe in Rebound headaches – I was living proof that there is such a thing and beat them! It was the greatest thing I ever learned to beat. if you’re taking OTC medicine every day for headaches, you’re having rebound headaches – see your neurologist (and maybe even an allergist)!!

  2. I see this is an old post but I just ran across it . . . hope someone is still paying attention.

    My son has been having headches since the summer. Over the summer it last 4 weeks with headache every day (though not at night). Now he is in it again and it has been almost 6 weeks of every day headache. His seasonal allergies have also been much worse this year than in the past. He is currently on a prescription allergy med like zyrtec. The allergy symptoms are controlled but the headache will not go away. Mostly it is mild to moderate every day but there will be peaks of worse pain maybe twice a week. My question is how you would pursue this. What can I do to try to stop the pain at home? What kind of meds do you think would be most effective? We are seeing a neurologist but don’t go back there for another few weeks. Thanks

  3. After about 5 years of suffering devastating migraines (before I used meds they used to present 5 days of acute symptoms, with at least 2 days of “post” and “pre” symptoms) I understand my migraines much better and know my triggers and early symptoms. Just recently I began to realize that my migraines might be triggered by allergies – I used to not even acknowledge I had allergies – I thought it was normal to feel the way I did. Now I realize I have a very mild allergy to peanuts, and of course, dust and pet dander, and even the slightest whiff of cigarette smoke. In my case, I believe the sinus inflammation (caused by the allergies) may limit/alter oxygen content in my blood causing the blood vessels to expand and triggering the migraines. Just a theory. Or maybe it is the inflammation itself causing the vessels to expand. Long story shorter, I had no idea this was an ongoing discussion in the migraine community. I stumbled across this connection due only to my own empirical observations.

  4. I have terrible allergies and get terrible migraines, usually when my allergies are bad. In my experience, allergies can definitely trigger migraines.

    I also find that my migraines will continue to occur daily as long as my allergies are bad. This makes for a miserable, drugged-out week.

  5. I have daily headaches, my GP thinks it is sinus issues triggered by allergies. Im at my wits end, with daily headaches for over a month. Can allergies affect a person every day for a month in the same exact way?

  6. Wow, how did I miss all these posts? I’m so glad to hear from you again! I just thought this was an interesting article – I wasn’t expecting such a huge post out of it – but it’s such a sticky topic!

    Once you get me started it’s hard to make me stop!

    Thanks again for the article. It raised great points.


  7. I think the point about migraine vs sinus headache is an interesting one also. While sinus headache has certainly been overdiagnosed in the migraine population, it does and can coexist with migraine. If you think you have both, get evaluated by an expert–don’t just take over-the-counter sinus medication, as this can cause reboud headaches.

    And while treating allergies will not get rid of migraines, controlling allergies will reduce migraine frequency if your allergies serve as a migraine trigger.

    Great topic!

    Great points. It’s hard to not apply my own experience to everyone else!


  8. “This study doesn’t prove that migraines are caused by allergies.”

    I think this point is worth re-stating.

    I can’t even count how many times people have said, “Are your migraines CAUSED by allergies?” My simple reply is: “No, but they may TRIGGER a migraine.”

    Allergies or not, I still get migraines. That, to me, indicates that it’s not the allergies CAUSING the migraine.

    Make sense?

    Thanks for reiterating that point. I hate to see people people waste precious time in getting an appropriate treatment. If I ran the headache world, I’d tell everyone to skip the allergist, chiropractor, ENT and get to a neurologist if their GP couldn’t help their headaches. Not that these other specialists may not be helpful, but starting with a good diagnosis will get you a lot further than searching blindly for relief.

    Alas, I only run my own headache world.


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