Asthma, Allergies, and Migraines – Are They Connected?

With springtime approaching and seasonal allergies flaring, it’s time to discuss the connection between allergies, asthma, and migraines.  For that, we need to take a deep dive into the research. Asthma and allergies are closely linked with each other, and numerous studies have shown that migraineurs with these conditions fare far worse than those without symptoms. 

I find it increasingly necessary to look for ways to prevent migraines; to do that, you need information. That’s what this post is for today. Start with knowledge, and then we’ll delve into what you can do about it.   

The Link Between Allergies/Hay Fever and Asthma

Before we look at the research for migraines, let’s review the definitions of allergies and asthma so we can better understand how each relates to migraines and headaches. 

Let’s start with allergies. Hay fever is the layperson term for ‘allergic rhinitis.’  Symptoms include your typical complaints of runny nose, sinus congestion, and postnasal drip. Triggers usually come from something in the environment like pollen, mold, scents, or dust. 

Asthma constricts your airway and makes it hard to breathe. An asthma attack feels like you’re trying to breathe through a coffee straw after you’ve done an intense aerobic workout, and your nose is plugged. It’s painful, terrifying, and dangerous. People with asthma generally take medications or keep rescue inhalers to help dilate the airways at the onset of an attack.

Allergies and asthma often go together. That’s not to say that one causes the other, but they are frequently found in connection to one another. Allergens inflame and irritate the passageways, which often leads to constriction and an asthma attack.

About 70% of asthmatics have seasonal allergies that exacerbate their condition.

What Does the Research Say?

The research shows there’s a close link between allergies and migraines, according to a 2013 study.  Migraineurs with allergic rhinitis – also called hay fever and characterized by inflammation and irritation of the nasal passages – were 33% more likely to experience a severe attack than their counterparts who didn’t suffer from seasonal allergies, asthma, or hay fever. 

The above study also showed that migraineurs who reported both allergic and non-allergic triggers were 45% more likely to suffer frequent attacks and 60% more likely to have debilitating symptoms. Scientists also mention an earlier study, which showed that aggressively treating allergic rhinitis reduced the frequency and severity of migraines.

The Prevalence of Allergies and Asthma in Migraineurs

What do symptoms look like for a migraineur with asthma or allergies? Dismal.  They’re more debilitating and more likely to lead to further deterioration without proper, whole-body treatment.  Here are some other facts, as presented in the journal, Cephalalgia:

·         67% of migraineurs suffer from allergies or asthma, and symptoms are generally worse than in their migraine counterparts who don’t have allergies or asthma.

·         Allergy shots were found to be exceptionally helpful in reducing migraine severity and frequency in people under 45; however, consideration should be given to possible side effects of this shot.

·         Asthma is 1.2 to 1.6 times more prevalent in migraineurs than non-sufferers.

·         34% of people with hay fever/allergies also suffer from migraines.

·         People with severe allergies or asthma and episodic migraines – fewer than 15 migraines a month – were two times more likely to develop chronic migraine syndrome than people with just episodic migraine.

I am always digging up new research and treatments for migraine sufferers. Since allergies or asthma are extremely prevalent in migraineurs, it’s prudent that we spend some time understanding all three conditions so we can better understand their connections. It times like these, it’s important to remember you’re not alone. Send me an email. I’m here to help.

Sources:

·         2013 Study from Science News: “Got the sniffles? Migraines spike with allergies, hay fever”

·         Cephalalgia: “Chronic rhinitis and its association with headache frequency and disability in persons with migraine: Results of the American Migraine Prevalence and Prevention (AMPP) Study”

·         American Migraine Foundation: “Migraine, Hay Fever, Asthma and Allergies”