Allergies as Migraine Triggers

We know that there are many possible triggers for a migraine attack. Some of the common triggers of migraine are stress, toxic smell, bright lights, loud noises, menstruation, and environmental changes. The triggers vary from person to person, meaning that what may trigger a migraine attack in someone may not necessarily trigger an attack in someone else.


An allergy is an abnormal response by the body’s immune system to a foreign substance. The foreign substance that causes an allergic reaction is called an allergen.

Examples of allergens are dust, fungi, pollen grains, food substances, etc. When the immune system of the body becomes very sensitive to a particular substance, an allergic reaction is seen.


Relationship Between Allergies and Migraine Attacks

Allergies can cause headaches. There are two types of headaches an allergy can cause: sinus headaches and migraine headaches. Headaches caused by a migraine is often mistaken to be a sinus headache. The two headaches are similar in that they both cause pain to the head, the nose is runny, congestion in the nasal regions, and watery eyes.

Although there are similarities between the two headaches, they are not the same. Some other symptoms are associated with sinus headaches that are usually not found in a migraine headache. Those symptoms are foul smell from one’s breath, nasal pus, fever, and lowered sense of smell.

Allergies can trigger a migraine attack. According to a study published in 2016, there is a higher probability of migraine attacks in people with allergies. The frequency of the migraine attacks is also higher in people that have allergies. [1]


How It Happens

Doctors do not know precisely how allergies trigger a migraine attack. The connection between the two is complex. What they can infer so far is that the nervous, endocrine, and immune system are all heavily involved. When someone experiences a migraine attack, the sensitivity of the body to foreign substances and environmental changes increases significantly. The body may react disproportionately to small changes.

In addition to that, allergens can trigger the immune system in the body and causing it to release specific chemicals. These chemicals then cause the body to be rapidly inflamed, and this inflammation may kick start a migraine attack.

These migraine attacks are usually more frequent and severe in ‘allergy season’. During these seasons, the allergens in the environment are generally at their peak.


Common Symptoms of an Allergy-Triggered Attack

If the trigger of the migraine attacks is an allergy, you may notice one or more of the following symptoms:

  • Pain in the cheeks and forehead

  • Pain all over the face

  • A pulsating headache usually on one side of the head

  • Nausea

  • Increased sensitivity to light

For those of us with allergies and migraine, the ‘allergy season’ can indeed be a nightmare. This means we need to take extra precautions during those times to manage both our allergies and migraine so that they don’t flare up and give us a tough time! What are some ways that we can go about doing this? Stay tuned as we share our findings in the next blog article!



Jenny from Migraine Buddy

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