Medically reviewed by Emily Maurer, NP on September 1, 2020
For people who suffer from migraines, avoiding something that could potentially trigger a headache is an absolute must. While it may be easy to stay away from certain foods, drinks, and activities, allergies are much more difficult to work around.
Allergies and migraines
In the most basic sense, allergies are an over-active response by the immune system. The immune system sees something in your environment as a threat and releases certain chemicals in your body that, depending on the severity and nature of your allergies, could trigger a migraine.
While the relationship between allergies and migraines is not a simple one, a major point of intersection between the two is the sinuses. The increased pressure associated with allergy-caused sinus blockage can be a major contributing factor towards developing a migraine. While sinus pressure can cause non-migraine headaches, these are relatively rare — most of the time, a headache accompanied by sinus issues is a sign of allergy-related irritation. 88% of people who think they have sinus headaches actually have migraines, so don’t assume nasal congestion means you don’t have a migraine.
Besides sinus-related issues, allergies can cause inflammation in other parts of the head, triggering a headache that way as well. Allergies can also bring about migraines in less direct ways, such as through the interruption of sleep — those with particularly nasty seasonal allergies often have difficulty sleeping, and fatigue is a common migraine trigger.
Treatments for allergy-related migraines
While there are medications available for treating migraines specifically, if allergies trigger your migraines you should also look into allergy-mitigation strategies to prevent your migraines. Some strategies for preventing allergy-induced migraines include:
Decongestants can relieve the pressure in your sinuses and nasal passage, lowering the chances that a migraine occurs. Most decongestants are available over-the-counter, but you should still talk to your doctor about using them to make sure they’re right for you.
For some people, keeping sinuses clear doesn’t require medication — it can be done simply and easily at home. Flushing out your nasal passages with a neti pot filled with sterilized water can help ward off congestion, as can regularly using a nasal spray.
Histamine is one of the chemicals your body produces when allergic reactions occur, and it also may be the chemical that’s aggravating your migraine. Antihistamines block the production of histamine, which can help prevent migraines, but won’t stop one if it’s already arrived.
Because allergies are rooted in the immune system, adjusting yours can help cut down on the worst of the symptoms. The most common form of immunotherapy is allergy shots, which can dull the effects that allergens have on your body for a certain amount of time — thus reducing the likelihood of migraines.
Doing whatever it takes to avoid exposure to allergens — avoiding certain foods, staying inside during certain times of the year, changing clothes when you’ve come in from the outdoors, and so on — may not solve your allergy problem entirely, but it will reduce the odds of triggering a migraine.
Like behavioral adjustments, staying hydrated won’t eliminate the problem entirely, but it can keep your mucus thin — preventing sinus and nasal congestion in the process.
There’s no simple answer to the problem of migraines, so get in touch with one of our providers here at Nurx for a personalized migraine treatment plan.