When Allergies Go to Your Head

Migraines more likely among those with allergy symptoms

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD Beth Bolt, RPh

(RxWiki News) Those who have experienced allergies are probably all too familiar with the runny or stuffy nose, the itchy eyes and the overall discomfort. They may also be familiar with migraines.

A recent study found that people with allergy symptoms were more likely to experience migraines as well.

It is not clear why the allergy symptoms might be related to the migraines, but the link did not appear to be due to chance.

Those who had stuffy or runny noses or congestion were more likely to experience worse and more frequent headaches than those without the symptoms.

"Ask your doctor about treatment for allergy symptoms."

This study, led by Vincent T. Martin, MD, of the Department of Internal Medicine at the University of Cincinnati in Ohio, looked at whether there was a link between headaches and allergies.

The researchers analyzed data from a group of US participants involved in a larger study because they were known to have a history of severe headaches.

A total of 10,753 participants filled out surveys regarding their frequency and onset of headaches and of "rhinitis."

Rhinitis is the medical term for the combination of symptoms that accompany allergies: congestion, a runny or stuffy nose and a post-nasal drip.

Among the 5,849 survey responders who had migraines, 67 percent of them had rhinitis.

Most of those with rhinitis had symptoms determined to be caused both by allergies and by other factors.

After taking into account differences among the respondents' social demographics, the researchers found that those participants who had the hay fever symptoms (rhinitis) had 33 percent greater odds of having a migraine than those without the symptoms.

Even after taking into account other differences among the participants that might influence their migraine risk, those with allergy symptoms still had 25 percent greater odds of having migraines than those without the rhinitis symptoms.

In addition, those who had rhinitis caused by a mixture of allergies and other factors had 28 percent greater odds of having more frequent headaches than those without rhinitis symptoms.

The researchers concluded that migraines were more common among those with allergy symptoms.

However, because many of the participants who had been asked to fill out the surveys did not, the researchers noted that further research is important to understand the possible link between allergies and migraines.

"Chronic rhinitis is modestly associated with an increased frequency and disability of headache in [those with migraines] sampled from the general population," the researchers wrote.

These researchers also suggested some possible ways in which migraines and allergy symptoms might be related, but they did not have a certain explanation for the link.

This study was published in the journal Cephalalgia. The research was funded by the National Headache Foundation through McNeil-Janssen Scientific Affairs LLC. The authors declared no conflicts of interest.

Review Date: 
November 27, 2013
Last Updated:
December 30, 2013