Can allergies cause headaches?
Headaches aren’t uncommon. Research estimates 70 to 80 percent of us experience headaches, and about 50 percent at least once a month. Allergies can be the source of some of those headaches.
Here are some of the common allergies that can lead to headaches:
- Allergic rhinitis (hay fever). If you have a headache along with seasonal and indoor nasal allergies, it’s more likely due to a migraine headache rather than allergies. But pain related to hay fever or other allergic reactions may cause headaches due to sinus disease. A true sinus headache is actually quite rare.
- Food allergies. There can be a relationship between food and headaches. For example, foods like aged cheese, artificial sweeteners, and chocolate can trigger a migraine in some people. Experts believe it’s the chemical properties of certain foods that trigger the pain, as opposed to a true food allergy.
- Histamine. The body produces histamines in response to an allergic reaction. Among other things, histamines decrease blood pressure (vasodilation). This can result in headache.
Treat an allergy headache the same way that you’d deal with any other headache. If allergies are the source of the headache, there are ways to address the root cause.
If you know your allergy triggers, you can do your best to avoid them to lower your chances of getting an allergy-related headache.
Here are some ways to avoid your triggers if they’re airborne:
- Keep your furnace filter clean.
- Remove carpeting from your living space.
- Install a dehumidifier.
- Vacuum and dust your house regularly.
Some allergies respond to over-the-counter (OTC) antihistamine medications. These include:
- diphenhydramine (Benadryl)
- chlorpheniramine (Chlor-Trimeton)
- cetirizine (Zyrtec)
- loratadine (Claritin)
- fexofenadine (Allegra)
Nasal corticosteroids can help reduce nasal congestion, swelling, ear and eye symptoms, and facial pain. These are available OTC and by prescription. They include:
- fluticasone (Flonase)
- budesonide (Rhinocort)
- triamcinolone (Nasacort AQ)
- mometasone (Nasonex)
Allergy shots are another way to treat allergies. They may lower the chances of allergy headaches by decreasing your sensitivity to allergens and lessening allergy attacks.
Allergy shots are injections given under your doctor’s supervision. You’ll receive them on a regular basis over a period of years.
Although many allergies can be controlled with judicial use of OTC medications, it’s always wise to consult with your doctor. If allergies are negatively impacting your quality of life or interfering with your daily activities, it’s in your best interests to explore treatment options with your doctor.
Your doctor might recommend that you see an allergist. This is a physician specializing in diagnosing and treating allergic conditions, such as asthma and eczema. An allergist might offer you a number of suggestions for treatment, including:
- allergy testing
- prevention education
- prescription medication
- immunotherapy (allergy shots)
At times, allergies related to sinus disease can cause headaches. Although it’s a good idea to discuss taking any medication with your doctor, you can address certain allergies — and allergy-related symptoms such as headaches — with preventive steps and OTC medications.
If your allergies get to a point where they’re interfering with your day-to-day activities, schedule an appointment with your doctor for a full diagnosis and possibly a referral to an allergist.