Allergies Make Migraines Worse

December 5, 2013
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Allergies Make Migraines Worse Is the change in seasons giving you the sniffles? Seasonal allergies could make you suffer from more severe migraine headaches, according to new research from the University of Cincinnati University of Cincinnati (UC), Montefiore Medical Center and the Albert Einstein College of Medicine of Yeshiva University and Vedanta Research.

The study, published in the journal Cephalalgia, is one of the first to establish a direct link between nasal allergies (rhinitis) and the frequency of migraines.

“The fact that rhinitis occurred in more than half of these individuals emphasizes that these disorders are intimately linked,” said Jonathan Bernstein, MD, medicine professor and clinical research director in the division of immunology, allergy, and rheumatology at UC.

Around 12% of Americans suffer from migraines headaches, while anywhere between 25-50% of the population is affected by seasonal allergies. Researchers were curious to see whether rhinitis–irritation or inflammation of the nasal membranes– was anyway related to migraine headaches. They analyzed data from the 2008 American Migraine Prevalence and Prevention (AMPP) Study, which included nearly 6,000 respondents.

  • Two out of three people with migraine reported suffering from rhinitis, also known as nasal allergies, seasonal allergies, or hay fever.
  • Migraine sufferers with rhinitis had a 33% greater risk of suffering from frequent headaches.
  • People with “mixed rhinitis”– whose nasal symptoms were triggered by both allergic and non-allergic triggers– were 45% more likely to suffer from frequent headaches and 60% more likely to have more disabling headaches than those without rhinitis. (Allergic triggers included cats, dogs, mold, or tree pollen while non-allergic included cigarette smoke, weather changes, perfumes, and gasoline.)

“The nose has largely been ignored as an important site involved in the initiation and exacerbation of migraine headache,” said coauthor Richard Lipton, MD, in a press release. “Rhinitis exacerbates migraine, as these results suggest, treating rhinitis may provide an important approach to relieving headache in people with both disorders.”

Many chiropractors can assist patients in the natural management of both migraine headache and allergies. Getting adequate treatment for both conditions may be crucial for reducing the frequency of migraine headache.



Martin, VT. Chronic rhinitis and its association with headache frequency and disability in persons with migraine: Results of the American Migraine Prevalence and Prevention (AMPP) Study. Cephalalgia 2013; 10.1177/0333102413512031.