Signs of Allergies
You might know some of your common headache triggers — maybe you are likely to get one if you skip a meal or don’t get enough sleep. But you may not realize that two kinds of headaches — sinus headaches and migraines — are linked to allergies.
A migraine headache is a usually a throbbing pain on one side of the head. Light may make it worse, and you might also experience nausea.
A sinus headache usually involves pain localized over the sinus area. You may also experience pain in your face along with, or instead of, a headache.
The sinus cavities are hollow air spaces in the skull, which have openings into the nose to allow air to enter and mucus to drain. They are located inside each cheekbone, behind the eyes, behind the bridge of the nose and in the forehead. Allergies can cause swelling in these sinus cavities, which may block the openings and cause pressure to build up.
The pain is often located around the blocked sinus. If a sinus cavity in your cheek is blocked, your cheeks may be tender to the touch and pain may extend to your jaw and teeth. Blockage in other sinuses can cause pain on the top of your head or elsewhere.
Sinus pain can be dull to intense; it often begins in the morning and becomes less intense after you move from lying flat to sitting or standing in an upright position.
Cluster headaches sometimes are mistakenly linked to allergies. They are not an allergic condition and are not treated with the same kinds of medications as other allergic headaches.
Allergy headaches can be very painful and disrupt your daily routine. Your board-certified allergist can help you control your allergies and get relief from this pain.
Find an Allergist in your City.
Migraine headaches can be caused by many factors, including genetics. Environmental allergies and food intolerances have been linked to migraines. If you suffer from recurrent migraines, your allergist can help you determine whether you are sensitive to common food allergens like peanuts, eggs or milk. Irritants like smoke or strong scents can also be a migraine trigger.
A sinus headache is caused by swelling in the sinuses that blocks the openings, preventing drainage and causing pressure to build up. Common seasonal and year-round allergens like pollen, mold and pet dander can cause your body’s immune system to react with a sinus headache, even if you have no other allergy symptoms.
Learn about some common triggers and how to avoid them:
How to Get Tested
If you’re suffering from sinus headaches or migraines, your board-certified allergist can help you determine whether they are caused by allergies. Your allergist will take a detailed medical history and review your symptoms before doing allergy tests.
The most common type of allergy testing is skin testing, which is fast and accurate. Your allergist may also conduct blood testing or a food challenge to complete your diagnosis.
This process helps identify the specific triggers that are causing your symptoms. Once you know your triggers, you can work with your allergist to develop a treatment plan and find relief!
Management and Treatment
The best way to manage your allergy headaches is to see an allergist.
Your allergist can help you develop a plan to manage your allergy symptoms, including headaches. A key step will include minimizing your exposure to the allergens that trigger your allergy headaches. Your allergist may also recommend prescription or nonprescription medications such as antihistamines, decongestants and corticosteroids to help treat your allergies.
Mild over-the-counter pain relievers such as Tylenol (acetaminophen) or Advil (ibuprofen) may provide short-term relief for sinus headache pain.
These at-home treatments may also help relieve your allergy headaches:
- Apply a warm, moist washcloth to your face several times a day.
- Drink plenty of fluids to thin the mucus.
- Inhale steam two to four times per day (for example, while sitting in the bathroom with the shower running).
- Spray the nose with nasal saline several times per day.
- Use a neti pot to flush the sinuses.
It Could Also Be…
There are many different types of headaches and many potential causes. If your allergist rules out allergies, ask what else might be causing your headaches, such as:
- Blood clots
- Brain tumor
- Carbon monoxide poisoning
- Changes in sleeping or eating
- Cold or flu
- Emotional or physical stress
- Teeth-grinding at night