How to Cope with Allergy-Related Migraines

An estimated 28 million Americans suffer from migraine headaches, according to the International Headache Society. Migraines have been found to have a range of triggers, one of which includes allergies.

If you suffer from migraines, below are some things to look out for.

Symptoms to Watch For

Here are some common causes of allergy related migraines:

  • Sinusitis. When an allergic person is exposed to an allergen such as dust, mold, pollen, animal hair, or skin, the sinuses become swollen. Researchers suggest that the swelling triggers the nerves in the brain to react to the change in pressure. The nerves then send signals to the brain that trigger the various symptoms of a migraine.
  • Food allergies. Migraine sufferers report the onset of migraines after eating certain foods such as chocolate, aged cheeses, alcohol (especially beer and red wine), salty foods and processed foods. Food allergies are believed to be a common trigger of recurrent migraine headaches. However, there is no clear-cut scientific evidence of a connection, and experts agree that further research is needed.
  • Chemical allergies. Food chemicals and additives like monosodium glutamate have been reported to cause migraine headaches. These chemicals are flavoring agents that are commonly found in packaged and oriental foods. Other chemicals that have been reported to cause allergy migraines are tyramine found in cheese, phenylethylamine found in chocolate, and aspartame (and artificial sweetener).
  • Allergic rhinitis (seasonal allergies). Allergic rhinitis is a histamine-driven condition. It is thought that histamine might play a key role in triggering migraines (by means of swelling). A number of people who suffer from seasonal allergies report allergy-induced migraines.

How to Prevent Allergy-Related Migraines

  • Avoid triggers. You've seen the list above. Do your best to manage your environment and make lifestyle choices that keep your exposure to these allergens minimal.
  • Keep a headache diary. To identify your specific migraine triggers, include in your diary your daily intake of foods, alcohol, medications, supplements, and exposure to different environments.
  • Take care of your sinuses. Allergy and sinus treatment can include rinsing the sinuses with a natural saltwater rinse. Nasal antihistamines and nasal steroids can also treat underlying allergic rhinitis by decreasing the swelling in the nose and sinuses. Talk to your doctor.
  • Keep allergy medicine handy. If you frequently suffer from allergy-related migraines, keep allergy medications handy. This can be very helpful to avoid the severe pain of an allergy-related migraine.

Bottom Line

There is help for people who suffer from allergy-related migraines. Dietary modification, environmental modifications, and allergy medications can all help in preventing the onset of allergy-related migraines.


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International Headache Society. Web. 1 May 2010.

Mayo Clinic Staff. "Migraine." Web. 1 May 2010.

Mehle, M.E. "Allergy and Migraine: Is there a Connection?" Current Opinion in Otolarygnology & Head and Neck Surgery. 16.3 (2008): 265-269.

"What is Allergy Headache." HeadacheUpdates. Web. 1 May, 2010.