Sunday, April 16, 2017

How Do Allergies Cause Headaches?

More sunshine, warmer weather and spring pollen bring about longer happier days and the anticipation of springtime fun.  But for the unlucky, pollens can often trigger many other unwanted feelings of poorly controlled allergy symptoms.

During the spring, many of my patients complain to me about headaches.  They feel pain and pressure across their foreheads, around their eyes, and in their cheeks.  Symptoms vary with the weather and are often worse after it rains or a drop in temperature.  For the unlucky, these symptoms may trigger a migraine headache and cause them to miss work or a social engagement.

How Do you Know if Allergies are Causing your Headaches? 

  • Do you feel pressure over your cheeks and forehead?  
  • This may correlate to your sinuses, hollow air spaces in your face.  Sinuses function to increase the area for exchange of air and mucous.  Sinuses produce mucous that can drain into your nose and into the back of your nose.
  • When this area becomes inflamed from allergies, it blocks the normal openings  preventing mucous to back up and cause pain.  
  • Is your nose stuffy?
  • Do you have an associated mucous dripping down the back of your throat?
  • Does only one of your sinuses hurt?
  • Do you have pain radiating to your teeth?
  • Are your headaches seasonal?  

What are Signs of Sinus Headaches Caused by Allergies?
  • Chronic pain and tenderness over the cheeks, forehead, and area between or behind the eyes.
  • Stuffy nose, sneezing, ear pain or pressure, ear fullness, or facial swelling
  • Loss of smell
  • Post nasal drip
  • Triggers of seasonal variation, for example, a headache you get every spring, fall, or with exposure to cleaning.
  • Have other diseases triggered by allergies like asthma, eczema, or allergies in your nose or eyes?  Allergic diseases tend to run together.  If you're an "allergic" person, then allergies in your sinuses might be triggering your allergies.
  • Suspect you're an allergic person, but aren't sure?  Take this easy quiz How Do I Know If I Have Allergies?
What Can you do If You Suspect Allergies are Causing Your Headaches?
If you answered yes to any of these questions, then uncontrolled nasal allergies may be one of the triggers of your headaches.

Unsure, get tested to see if and what your are sensitive too.  Knowing your sensitivities can help you take medication preventively  before headaches are triggered.  
Airborn allergens such as pollen are an important trigger of allergic sinusitis.   These are often misdiagnosed as sinus infections, and the treatment can be drastically different.

How Can You Treat Sinus Headaches?
  • If you suffer from headaches, see your primary doctor for a complete evaluation.
  • Suspect you have headaches triggered by uncontrolled allergies?  See an allergist to get tested to identify potential allergic triggers.
  • An allergist will be able to help formulate a specific plan that will include:
    • avoidance measures, 
    • direct medications and 
    • possibly offer allergy shots (a way to desensitize you to your allergic triggers)
  • Want more information on headaches?  Learn more at Allergies and Headaches or The National Headache Foundation.
Have more specific questions for me?  Schedule an appointment here

Dr. Jennifer Collins  is double board certified in allergy and immunology and internal medicine.  She's provided medical care for over a decade in New York City.  Gramercy Allergy is New York City's Premier Allergy practice. Learn more about us at gramercyallergy.com

Or at @gramercyallergy.com

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