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How do allergies cause migraine headaches?

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The link between migraine headaches and allergies is complex. Doctors are still trying to figure it out. So far, they know that your nervous system, endocrine (hormonal) system, and immune system all play a role.

If you get migraines, you have a sensitive nervous system. Your body tends to react very quickly, or overreact, to changes in your environment that it views as threats.

On top of that, exposure to allergens triggers your immune system to release certain chemicals. They can fuel inflammation throughout your body, all of which can set you up for a migraine.

If you’re prone to migraine headaches, your symptoms may be more severe during allergy season. Some people can also have non-allergic triggers like perfume, the smell of gasoline, cigarette smoke, and weather changes.

SOURCES:

Current Neurology and Neuroscience Reports : “Allergic Rhinitis and Chronic Daily Headaches: Is There a Link?”

American Migraine Foundation: “Sinus Headaches," “Sinus Headaches, Allergies, Asthma, and Migraine: More Than a Casual Relationship?”

Annals of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology : “Prevalence of migraine headaches in patients with allergic rhinitis.”

News Release, University of Cincinnati Academic Health Center.

American College of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology: “Allergy Headaches.”

NHS Choices: “Sinusitis.”

Nemours KidsHealth: “Histamine.”

Headache : “Allergy and Immunotherapy: are they related to migraine headaches?” “Histamine in migraine and brain.”

National Headache Foundation: “Steroid Nasal Spray May Be Migraine Trigger.”

American Academy of Allergy Asthma & Immunology: “Indoor Allergens,” “Outdoor Allergens.”

Swedish Covenant Hospital: “Five diet changes to reduce seasonal allergies.”

UpToDate: “Patient Education: Allergic Rhinitis (seasonal allergies) (Beyond the Basics).”

Reviewed by Stephen D. Silberstein on July 17, 2017

SOURCES:

Current Neurology and Neuroscience Reports : “Allergic Rhinitis and Chronic Daily Headaches: Is There a Link?”

American Migraine Foundation: “Sinus Headaches," “Sinus Headaches, Allergies, Asthma, and Migraine: More Than a Casual Relationship?”

Annals of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology : “Prevalence of migraine headaches in patients with allergic rhinitis.”

News Release, University of Cincinnati Academic Health Center.

American College of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology: “Allergy Headaches.”

NHS Choices: “Sinusitis.”

Nemours KidsHealth: “Histamine.”

Headache : “Allergy and Immunotherapy: are they related to migraine headaches?” “Histamine in migraine and brain.”

National Headache Foundation: “Steroid Nasal Spray May Be Migraine Trigger.”

American Academy of Allergy Asthma & Immunology: “Indoor Allergens,” “Outdoor Allergens.”

Swedish Covenant Hospital: “Five diet changes to reduce seasonal allergies.”

UpToDate: “Patient Education: Allergic Rhinitis (seasonal allergies) (Beyond the Basics).”

Reviewed by Stephen D. Silberstein on July 17, 2017

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