Meds & Supplements, News & Research, Symptoms, Treatment

Crossing Allergies Off the Migraine Trigger List & Adding Nasal Irrigation as a New Treatment

Of the 33 allergens tested for in a basic allergy panel, I’m allergic to nothing. I’m happy with the results, even though it means crossing yet another possibility off the list. I used to get discouraged when I hit a dead end. I’m not now; just glad to not have to deal with allergy shots.

The allergist thinks I’m one of about 20% of people who have nonallergic rhinitis. These folks aren’t bothered by typical allergenic inhalants, but by a host of other possibilities, including odors, irritants in the air, weather changes, medications… Mayo Clinic’s definition of rhinitis:

If you do have rhinitis, the lining of your nose swells due to expanding blood vessels. The mucus glands in your nose get stimulated, causing a congested, drippy nose. The symptoms of nonallergic rhinitis are similar to those of hay fever (allergic rhinitis), but there’s no allergic reaction involved.

The treatment is a simple spray of intranasal corticosteroids, like Flonase. Great news, right? Except that a study written up in this month’s issue of the journal Cephalalgia indicates nasal steriod sprays can trigger migraines! I’m going to try it, but nasal irrigation (with a neti pot) might be a better solution. You may have heard of nasal irrigation about a year ago, when Oprah praised its benefits.

Using a neti pot is simple. Basically, you pour a saline solution up one nostril and it comes out the other. I won’t lie — it feels bad and weird at first. It takes patience to put up with the initial unpleasantness. Once you get the hang of it, nasal irrigation actually becomes pleasurable! Here’s how it works:

I’ve never used a neti pot consistently, but am always pleasantly surprised by how my sinuses feel afterward. It’s an easy, inexpensive treatment to try. Neti pots, some of which come with salt packets, are $10-20 on Amazon. Making your own saline solution is simple and much less expensive. The basic recipe is 1/4 teaspoon non-iodized salt to 1 cup warm water. (Distilled or purified water is preferred. To use tap water, bring it to a boil, then let it cool before using it.) You can choose to add extra ingredients. A 1/4 teaspoon baking soda makes the solution more soothing. You can keep your nose from drying out by adding 1/4 teaspoon glycerin.

I’m dedicated to giving nasal irrigation another shot. I’ll do it every day for a week, starting today. If you’re interested, you can track my progress on Twitter. How about you? Does it sound like a good treatment or does it just gross you out?

Check out neti pots on Amazon and help support The Daily Headache!

19 thoughts on “Crossing Allergies Off the Migraine Trigger List & Adding Nasal Irrigation as a New Treatment”

  1. im 27 and a chronic servere migrain sufferer since i was 4 and have tried eliminating just about every kind of food known to trigger migrains 1 at a time for several months at a time with no success until the only thing left was tap water. So for the past 6 months i have only had milk, juice or bottled water and havent had a migrain since with the exception of a few early warning signs which never eventuated. I do still have constant light and noise sensitivity with a daily slight headache. One can only wonder what rubbish they put in our water that can cause such extraordinary pain and suffering. Doctors have always asked the whole what number from 1 to 10 is your pain i have always said 15 as its worse than death. To have that now at a 2 or 3 is lifesaving.

  2. Hate to tell you this, but, you should be tested for 3 levels of allergic reactions. Some people (like my sister) don’t show skin reactions until the third level of concentrations. 33 isn’t enough. I’ve discovered allergies to common irritants like tobacco and wood polish, because I can feel a sinus headache start when I’m breathing them in. You should find an allergist that tests for multiple levels. And my headaches get worse when it’s spring or fall….peak allergy seasons for me.

  3. hi,
    you don’t need a neti pot, just water, salt and a bulb syringe. that works fine and helps anyway.
    i have had allergy shots since i was a child, i don’t think it’s related tho.
    unfortunately my migraines did not lessen until after menopause. i still get them, but MUCH, much less than before. they are now a rare occurance and not nearly so bad.
    have you tried a food diary? see if they occur a few days after exercise, or after eating aged cheeses etc.
    Good luck, LT

  4. I haven’t used the netti pot but, I do use Simply Saline spray a lot. I had sinus surgery a couple of years back and they had me doing it afterward. I found it just felt better after(I work in a bar where smoking is still allowed). I think it does tend to help if I am just starting with a regular headache (which, for me, will progress to a migraine sooner or later…usually sooner).

  5. These things work great but like everyone else says they are a little gross. Honestly I don’t care because the relief is all that matters. If you couldn’t do it in privacy then that would be a different story. I wouldn’t want anyone to see me with all that yucky stuff dripping out of my face. I bought these additives too and they really improve the effectiveness of the neti. I got this Sinus Genie Nasal Salt stuff offline and it really helps open you up even more. Its from the same people that make Sinus Buster if you’ve ever heard of that hot pepper nasal spray stuff. I use it in the shower now because it creates less of a mess.

  6. I agreed with my NDPH diagnosis…it fits my case much better than CDH, because my headache started one day with a sinus infection and hasn’t gone away. Before that, I didn’t have headaches or migraines (now I also get migraines too). I haven’t responded to any of the standard treatments. CDH seems to mostly happen the other way around–headaches and mgiraines increase in frequency until they are daily.

    Did he put you on Singulair & Minocycline? I am on them and no relief so far–I am actually feeling worse.

    I read that you are against daily opiates at this point. I find that interesting because I am currently pursuing going that route. Dr. Singer is the only doc I’ve had so far out of 15-20 that actually thinks it is ok for some cases. He was also the only one that has even suggested NDPH to me–somehow I had never heard of it in all my research and online groups.

    Best wishes.

  7. In regards to the neti-pot, I think it sounds like a great idea. I myself have been contemplating the use of it to help reduce allergens and irritations which can trigger my migraine headaches. One person commented about using some type of “pepper spray” which worked for someone else. I would use extreme caution in this as I have had the exact opposite experience with spicy food, etc, finding it induces migraines. Also, I have tried the steroid nasal sprays. I would defintely try the neti-pot and perhaps some type of allergy prevention pill like Zyrtec first.

  8. Hi Kerrie,
    I also was diagnosed with non-allergic rhinitis. The nose spray did not help me, and neither did the Neti Pot (although for a sinus infection I imagine it would be useful). I had moderate childhood allergies to just about everything, so I was pretty shocked when I tested negative for everything! The sinus buster spray is HORRIBLE. It burns so bad.

    Sadly enough I actually gave it a shot for a couple weeks. I’ll try just about everything to get rid of this dang “headache.” I did finally get a new diagnosis though….I saw Dr. Singer in Kirkland and got a NDPH diagnosis, which fits my symptoms well. I forget who you’re currently seeing? Still just about out of options for treatment though.

    I’ve been seeing Dr. Singer, too. Everyone I know who has seen him has gotten a NDPH diagnosis. I have to wonder if it is his default, like migraine is the default for so many doctors. I got the “there’s hope for you in the future” talk last time I saw him. That’s usually the last talk I have with a doctor.


  9. I just got to your site, but as a headache sufferer for probably 55 years, I noticed a couple of things already you might omit. Birth control pills are a horrible migraine trigger, as is fresh baked bread. I really like HEAL YOUR HEAdaches, by Burkhotz..really explains the tipping point for stressors. I too am using the nasal irrigation, NEILit, I think is mine, and I also read, if in fact a sinus headache, or blockage is causing a headache, try afrin, if the headache are onto something.

  10. Good luck! I think you’ll really like nasal rinses.

    I’ve used nasal rinses for years, the Neil Med bottle kind. You can get packets of baking soda & salt to mix with the water, or make your own of course. I really like it and it feels soothing, it doesn’t burn if you use filtered water and the salt & baking soda. Gets rid of sinus pressure headaches for me.

  11. I first heard about this on Oprah, then found it hard to fine one thereafter. I wanna try this, as both a migraine and allergy sufferer. I’ll let ya know what I think of it when I do. ;o)


  12. Oooo I love my neti pot!

    Never thought about putting glycerin in the solution. I’ll have to give it more thought now!

    I use pickling salt. It is about as pure a source of NaCl as I can find.

    You know, Emily, I do find headache relief from using my neti pot (not Migraine relief, but head pain). When that nice warm solution hits just a certain spot in the back of my sinuses, I feel it around my entire head and pain just smooths out.

    It’s only temporary relief but heck, I’ll take it! If it’s enough to help until the pain eases by itself, it beats swallowing something for relief to me.

  13. Gross is an understatement! Does it burn like when you get water in your nose while swimming?

    There’s a little bit of a water-up-your-nose sensation at first, but it passes quickly (for me at least). Adding baking soda is supposed to keep the burning away. The water temperature is also key. Too hot or too cold can hurt. I try to heat mine to about body temp.


  14. I hope it helps you as much as it helps me! All of our collective symptoms are quite similar, and the only things I’ve had any success with are nasal irrigation and an awesome acupuncture gal who also deals with migraine so she completely understands my pain.

    Good luck.

  15. I think I’m a little more grossed out by the neti pot than I should be. I’d do it if I thought it would help my health. I would do it in a second if it’d help my headaches. 😉 I also have heard from a reliable source (my HA specialist at Diamond HC) that migraines frequently cause runny noses, for the exact reasons you mentioned. The expanding blood vessels in your head include those in your nasal cavities. Just something to think about. You probably already know this information.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *