A woman experiencing a migraine or sinus headache.
Healthy Living

Migraine, Sinus Headache and Allergies: What to Know

Apr 27 2021

Spring has sprung! While this means warmer weather and more hours of sunlight, it also means allergy season.

Allergies can cause migraines and sinus headaches for some individuals. Not sure which one you are dealing with? You’re not alone. In fact, migraines are often mistaken for sinus headaches.

Learn how these ailments differ and how allergies can play a role in the severity of each.

What is a sinus headache?

If you’re suffering from a sinus headache, you’ll experience a feeling of pain and pressure around your cheekbones, eyes, forehead and the bridge of your nose. You might find that the discomfort increases when you lie down.

Other sinus headache symptoms include:

  • Facial swelling
  • Fatigue
  • Fever
  • Reduced smell
  • Runny or stuffy nose
  • Soreness near your upper teeth

Sinus headaches are caused by sinusitis, or inflamed sinuses. The swelling might arise as the result of an infection. A blockage in your nasal cavity can also cause swelling. If you have allergies, you might also experience sinus congestion along with your headache.

When treating a sinus headache, your doctor may offer antibiotics to treat an infection that’s causing a sinus headache. Antihistamines, pain relievers and decongestants might also help further reduce symptoms. A humidifier and saltwater nasal spray can be useful too.

What is a migraine?

If you’re suffering from a migraine attack, you’ll have a throbbing pain on one or both sides of your head. The pain will range from moderate to severe. The feeling might increase when you try to perform physical activity or are exposed to light and sound. Some migraines can also induce nausea or vomiting as well as sinus pain.

Certain symptoms may tip you off that a migraine is on the way. Those symptoms include:

  • Constipation
  • Frequent urge to urinate
  • Mood changes
  • Yawning more often than usual

In addition, symptoms such as vision problems, speech problems, confusion, numbness and tingling of your face or hands can occur just before and during a migraine. These symptoms are called migraine aura.

Migraines seem to be related to levels of chemicals in the brain. Genetic and environmental factors may be behind the condition as people who suffer from migraines have family members who also have them.

If the pain you’re experiencing is a migraine, an overly sensitive nervous system is likely the root cause. This means your body reacts too strongly to stimuli, so therefore you might struggle with seasonal allergies too. Allergies lead to inflammation, and inflammation can trigger migraines or make them worse.

For treating a migraine, your doctor might suggest a combination of pain relief and preventative meds, including anti-seizure drugs and antidepressants. Relaxation techniques, staying hydrated, a consistent sleep schedule and working out might help reduce them as well.

How to manage allergies

Learning how to manage allergies might not end your sinus headaches or your migraines. But it might help make you feel more comfortable overall.

A doctor may give you antihistamines or suggest decongestants to reduce allergy symptoms and sinus pressure. Allergy shots can also be useful.

To manage allergies without meds, take simple steps such as the following:

  • Avoid going outside or opening windows on windy days or when pollen levels are high.
  • Dust your home and clean your bedding.
  • Stay hydrated to thin out mucus.
  • Vacuum your carpets and avoid putting down rugs and carpet when possible.
  • Wash your hands after playing with or handling pets.

Despite at times overlapping and having similar symptoms, migraines, sinus headaches and allergies are different conditions that might require different solutions.

Need a primary care provider to help you sort things out? Find a Bon Secours provider near you.

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