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Allergy Headache

writtenByWritten by: Jennifer Nelson
Jennifer Nelson

Jennifer Nelson

Jennifer is a contributing health writer who has been researching and writing health content with PlushCare for 3 years. She is passionate about bringing accessible healthcare and mental health services to people everywhere.

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reviewBy Reviewed by: Dr. Katalin Karolyi
Reviewer

Dr. Katalin Karolyi

Katalin Karolyi, M.D. earned her medical degree at the University of Debrecen. After completing her residency program in pathology at the Kenezy Hospital, she obtained a postdoctoral position at Sanford Burnham Prebys Medical Discovery Institute, Orlando, Florida.

April 21, 2021 Read Time - 5 minutes

What is an Allergy Headache?

Your nose won’t stop dripping, you feel all stuffed up, and your head hurts – could all those things be connected? Probably! Allergy headaches typically fall into two different categories: sinus headaches and migraines. Either way, allergies can definitely cause headaches and make you miserable.

Here’s what you need to know about allergy headaches and how to feel better.

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    Our doctors operate in all 50 states and same day appointments are available every 15 minutes.

  • See a doctor, get treatment and a prescription at your local pharmacy.

  • Use your health insurance just like you normally would to see your doctor.

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Can Allergies Cause Headaches?

Yes, allergies can cause headaches. There are two main types of allergy headaches. 

Sinus headaches happen when the sinus cavities are swollen and their openings into the nasal passages are blocked, which stops normal drainage and causes pressure to build up. 

The sinus cavities are located behind the eyes, inside each cheekbone, in the forehead, and behind the bridge of the nose, so these areas are where the pain of sinus headaches tends to occur.

Migraines, on the other hand, generally cause severe throbbing pain or a pulsing sensation, usually on one side of the head.

Both types of headaches can occur with hay fever (also called allergic rhinitis), which causes a runny, stuffy nose and other allergy symptoms.

While many people are quick to diagnose their allergy headaches as being sinus headaches, some studies have shown that up to 90% of patient-diagnosed sinus headaches are actually migraines, which require different treatment.

Allergy Headache Symptoms

Symptoms of allergy headaches will vary depending on whether it is a sinus headache or a migraine.

Sinus headaches often cause pain in the cheeks, jaw, forehead, or top of the head. The headache may get worse when lying down because even more pressure can build up in the sinus cavities.

Migraine headaches typically cause throbbing pain on one side of the head and may cause light or sound sensitivity, nausea, or other symptoms.

Allergy Headache Causes

Sinus headaches are caused by pressure in the sinus cavities when they cannot drain properly. 

Allergy migraines may be triggered by nasal congestion directly activating the trigeminal nerve in the nose. Nasal congestion due to allergies could also cause snoring and sleep apnea, which can cause headaches.

Allergy Headache Treatment

When it comes to allergy headache relief, tackling the underlying allergy is among the best allergy headache treatment. Beyond that, sinus headaches and migraines may need different treatments for the best results.

Avoiding Allergens

Prevention is often the best medicine: avoiding the allergens that trigger your allergies can help prevent allergy headaches before they even start. Here are some tips for avoiding different types of allergens that could be triggering your allergy headaches.

Outdoor exposure:

  • Stay indoors as much as possible when pollen counts are high (usually during the midmorning and early evening) or the wind is blowing pollen around.
  • Wear glasses or sunglasses outside to limit how much pollen gets in your eyes.
  • Avoid using window fans because they can draw allergens into your home.

Indoor exposure:

  • Limit exposure to dust mites by using mite-proof covers for your bedding.
  • Keep your windows closed and use air conditioning instead.
  • Limit the amount of mold in your home by keeping the humidity levels low.

Exposure to pets:

  • Keep pets outside as much as possible. When you can’t, at least keep them out of your bedroom to limit exposure to their dander while you sleep.
  • Wash your hands right away after petting animals and wash your clothes after visiting homes that have pets.
  • Replace the carpets in your home with hard floors, which are easier to keep dander-free, and use an air purifier in your bedroom.

Treating the Headaches

When you cannot avoid your allergens, you can treat your hay fever with one or more of the following types of medications:

  • Antihistamines block histamine, a chemical produced by the body in response to allergens that causes hay fever and other allergic reactions.
  • Oral and nasal decongestants help relieve the stuffiness and pressure caused by swollen nasal tissue.
  • Intranasal corticosteroids are the most effective drug class for treating hay fever. They can significantly reduce nasal congestion, itching, sneezing, and runny nose.

There are also some at-home remedies that may help treat allergy headaches, including:

  • Drink lots of fluids to help thin out the mucus in your nasal passages.
  • Apply a wet, warm washcloth to your face a few times a day.
  • Use a neti pot to flush mucus from your nasal cavities.
  • Inhale steam two to four times a day.
  • Spray the nose with nasal saline several times a day.

Allergy Headache Frequently Asked Questions

What Is an Allergy Headache?

An allergy headache is a sinus headache or migraine triggered by hay fever, a type of allergic reaction.

What Does an Allergy Headache Feel Like?

Sinus headaches triggered by allergies typically feel like pain or pressure in your face, forehead, or the top of your head.

Migraines triggered by allergies usually feel like intense throbbing or pulsing pain on one side of your head.

How Do You Get Rid of an Allergy Headache?

Treating allergy headaches often requires a multi-pronged approach:

  • Reduce your allergy symptoms and sinus congestion with an antihistamine, decongestant, or intranasal corticosteroid.
  • Take acetaminophen (Tylenol), migraine medicine, or other pain relievers to minimize or eliminate your headache.
  • Try at-home treatments like using a neti pot, drinking plenty of fluids, and applying a warm wet washcloth to your face.
  • Book on our free mobile app or website.

    Our doctors operate in all 50 states and same day appointments are available every 15 minutes.

  • See a doctor, get treatment and a prescription at your local pharmacy.

  • Use your health insurance just like you normally would to see your doctor.

PlushCare-App-Steps

Get Allergy Headache Treatment Online

Whether you are experiencing sinus headaches or migraines, you can get allergy headache treatment online. 

Through a video or phone appointment, the trusted doctors at PlushCare can diagnose which type of allergy headache you’re experiencing and recommend or prescribe medications to help relieve your symptoms. When appropriate, the doctor can electronically send a prescription to your local pharmacy.

Ready to tackle your allergy headaches? Book an appointment at PlushCare now!


Read More About Allergy Headaches


Sources:

PlushCare is dedicated to providing you with accurate and trustworthy health information.

American Academy of Allergy Asthma & Immunology. Headaches Connected to Allergies and Sinus Problems. Accessed on April 8, 2021 at https://www.aaaai.org/conditions-and-treatments/library/allergy-library/allergy-sinus-headaches

American College of Allergy, Asthma, & Immunology. Allergy Headaches. Accessed on April 8, 2021 at https://acaai.org/allergies/symptoms/allergy-headaches

American Migraine Foundation. Migraine, Hay Fever, Asthma and Allergies. Accessed on April 8, 2021 at https://americanmigrainefoundation.org/resource-library/migraine-hay-fever-asthma-allergies/

Mayo Clinic. Migraine. Accessed on April 17, 2021 at
https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/migraine-headache/symptoms-causes/syc-20360201

National Institutes of Health. Current neurology and neuroscience reports. Allergic Rhinitis and Chronic Daily Headaches: Is There a Link? Accessed on April 8, 2021 at https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4762930/

Most PlushCare articles are reviewed by M.D.s, Ph.Ds, N.P.s, nutritionists and other healthcare professionals. Click here to learn more and meet some of the professionals behind our blog. The PlushCare blog, or any linked materials are not intended and should not be construed as medical advice, nor is the information a substitute for professional medical expertise or treatment. For more information click here.

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