It’s common for people with allergies to experience sinus headaches. Unfortunately, it’s also the case that people with allergies are more likely to get migraine headaches. Telling the difference between the two is key to getting the proper treatment. We review the similarities and differences below and provide an overview of treatment options.
Similarities Between Allergies & Migraines
There are a few similarities between allergies and migraines that can make it difficult to tell which you have, including:
- Nausea (in some cases)
- Symptoms being triggered by an environmental factor
Differences Between Allergies & Migraines
The differences between allergies and migraines have to do with other symptoms that accompany the headache as well as what systems are responsible for your symptoms.
If your headache is the result of allergies, you’ll likely experience other symptoms such as:
- Itchy, watery eyes
- Nasal congestion
- Runny nose
- Facial pain/pressure
- Postnasal drip
If your headache is a migraine, you may also experience:
- Sensitivity to light and sound
- An aura of unusual sensations, like flashing lights or sounds
- Changes to your thoughts or mood
It’s also possible for you to experience both allergies and a migraine at the same time, which would result in symptoms from both lists.
Allergies Can Trigger Migraines
There is evidence that people with allergies are more likely to experience migraines. One study from 2012 found that 37% of study participants with allergies had a history of migraines compared to just 5% of those without allergies.
While migraines are not part of an allergic reaction, it may be the case that certain allergens can trigger neurological changes that lead to migraine headaches.
Meanwhile, sinus headaches caused by allergies are the result of fluid buildup in the sinuses that cause pain and pressure.
Because of the link between allergies and migraines, managing allergy symptoms may help reduce your risk of developing a migraine. We recommend:
- Getting an allergy test at Charleston ENT & Allergy to determine what exactly you’re allergic to.
- Practicing avoidance of allergens whenever possible. This includes staying indoors with the windows closed when pollen counts are high and avoiding foods that trigger symptoms.
- Taking a daily over-the-counter antihistamine from Herold’s Pharmacy.
- Talking to an allergist about immunotherapy, a long-term treatment option that works by helping your immune system build up a tolerance to allergens.
Managing migraines is the same for people with and without allergies. Treatment options include:
- Avoiding migraine triggers whenever possible.
- Taking migraine-preventing medications such as beta-blockers, antidepressants or anticonvulsants.
- Taking migraine-treating medications such as over-the-counter pain medications, anti-nausea drugs, steroids and acute migraine medications.
- Going to therapy to learn stress management techniques.
- Talking to a neurologist to discuss your options.
For more information about preventing or treating allergies or migraines, call Charleston ENT & Allergy today.