Do Allergy Sufferers Get More Severe Headaches?

If you get migraine headaches and are also prone to allergies, it’s important that you manage your allergy symptoms well. 


Migraines aren’t just really bad headaches.

They can be extremely debilitating, and consist of intense neurological symptoms that can last 4 to 72 hours, according to the Migraine Research Foundation. In addition to severe pain, migraines may include visual disturbances, nausea, vomiting, and extreme sensitivity to light, sound, smell, and touch. Some sufferers experience tingling or numbness in the face and extremities as well. Around 10% of the American population suffers from migraines, and each year around 113 million lost work days are due to headaches, including migraines. Estimated costs are around $50 billion dollars annually. Furthermore, migraine sufferers live with the knowledge that at any time an attack could completely disrupt their life for a period of time.

Rhinitis is an inflammation of the nasal membranes, and usually is accompanied by pain, sneezing, congestion, runny nose, or any combination of these symptoms. Rhinitis is most commonly due to allergies. Though allergic rhinitis itself isn’t life threatening unless it accompanies severe asthma or anaphylactic reactions, it is costly. In 2001, Americans with allergic rhinitis spent around $17.5 billion on health-related costs, lost six million work or school days, and made 16 million doctor visits.

Study Linking Migraine Frequency and Rhinitis

A study of around 6,000 migraine sufferers was recently published in the journal Cephalalgia, and it reports interesting links between migraines and rhinitis. From questionnaires filled out in 2008 as part of the American Migraine Prevalence and Prevention Study, researchers discovered that two-thirds of those with migraines also reported nasal or seasonal allergies. The study concluded that migraine sufferers with allergic rhinitis were 33% more likely to have more frequent migraines than those without allergic rhinitis.

Believe it or not, this is one of the first studies linking the frequency of migraines to rhinitis, according to lead author Dr. Vincent Martin, professor of medicine at the University of Cincinnati and co-director of the school’s Headache and Facial Pain Program.

A Chicken or Egg Question

The connection between migraines and allergies is complex.


Results of the questionnaire did not allow researchers to conclude whether allergic rhinitis increased the frequency of migraine attacks, or whether the migraines themselves produced rhinitis symptoms in these patients. However, if you get migraines, and you have nasal allergies, you are more likely to get more frequent migraines than non-allergy suffering migraine patients. This information, however, may hold clues to better treatment of migraines.

Richard Lipton, MD, of Montefiore Medical Center and the Albert Einstein College of medicine said, “The nose has largely been ignored as an important site involved in the initiation and exacerbation of migraine headache. If rhinitis exacerbates migraine, as these results suggest, treating rhinitis may provide an important approach to relieving headache in people with both disorders.

Information on Non-Drug Migraine Treatment

Treatment of migraines may include prescription or non-prescription medications, and research is constantly being done on lifestyle factors that may affect migraines. Some highlights of this type of research include:

  • One study links daily magnesium supplements to reduced migraine frequency
  • Prescription-strength doses of the B vitamin riboflavin was linked to migraine prevention in a small study in 1998.
  • Healthy Omega 3 fats can fight inflammation, a likely culprit in many headaches.
  • Ginger can ease migraine-related nausea. If you drink ginger ale for this purpose, make sure the brand you choose has real ginger. Seagram’s is one such brand.
  • One small study found that weekly massage sessions cut headache frequency in migraine sufferers.
  • A Swedish study found that thrice-weekly, 40-minute exercise sessions were effective at preventing migraines.

Keeping Allergy Symptoms Under Control

If you have rhinitis, you have plenty of options for keeping your symptoms under control. Sometimes nonprescription antihistamines like Benadryl are sufficient, but in other cases, prescription antihistamines like Clarinex are more effective. While nasal decongestants can provide short-term relief, they can’t be used for longer than a few days without the risk of unpleasant rebound congestion. Fortunately, nasal steroid sprays like Flonase, Nasonex, and Nasacort provide relief and can be used long term.

If you’re one of the unfortunate people who suffers with both allergic rhinitis and migraines, the new study gives you one more reason to make the effort to keep your allergy symptoms under control. offers allergy relief drugs including Nasonex and offers speedy, dependable shipping. is dedicated to serving customers’ health needs and providing the best in customer service, online security, and patient privacy.


Don Amerman has spent more than three decades in the business of writing and editing. During the last 15 years, his focus has been on freelance writing. For almost all of his writing, He has done all of his own research, both online and off, including telephone and face-to-face interviews where possible. Don Amerman on Google+