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Allergic Headaches

Patients and their physicians have long noted the association of headaches and allergic or infectious nasal problems. Quality of life assessment of patients with allergic rhinitis includes headache as a common problem which adversely impacts the lives of sufferers. Patients often refer to facial pain or pressure as “sinus headaches.” Experts in allergy, otolaryngology, and neurology feel that real sinus headaches occur infrequently. How can we explain the obvious discrepancy between the common observation and the precise diagnosis?

Like allergic rhinitis, migraine headache is a common problem. The reason that some migraine sufferers believe that their pain is due to their sinuses include pain over the sinuses, pain triggered by weather changes, pain associated with nasal stuffiness and discharge, seasonal variation, and exposure to allergens. One study shows that 34% of patients with allergic rhinitis had headaches meeting the criteria for migraine headaches and only 2% of the group without allergic rhinitis had migraine headaches..

The exact cause and effect relationship between allergic rhinitis and headaches is not completely clear. Physicians treating patients with headaches and nasal symptoms should consider appropriate evaluation and treatment of infectious and allergic causes.

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