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Headaches are a common allergy symptom. The frequency of these headaches can also be found to increase when allergy season starts or the primary and/or secondary allergy is poorly controlled. There are over 100 different types of headache. The three main types of headache associated with allergy are:Sinus headache
The sinuses are air-filled cavities in the skull – located inside the cheekbone, behind the bridge of the nose, behind the eyes, and behind the forehead, making four groups in all. Each sinus has an opening into the nose, allowing for the drainage of mucous and the exchange of air.
- Swollen sinus: leading to blockage of the openings to the nasal passages which, in turn, causes pressure and headache pain.
- Facial pain rather than head pain: The pain is often localised to the affected sinus, or sinuses. It may range in severity from dull to intense and may be relieved by standing, rather than lying down. Sudden movements tend to make the pain worse.
- Nasal discharge: a feeling of fullness in your ears and swelling of the face.
Not all sinus headaches are allergy related. However, if you have other allergy symptoms, such as sneezing, nasal congestion, itching and runny nose and eyes, then allergy is likely the cause of your sinus headache.
Treatments of Sinus Headache include:
- Nasal steroid sprays
- Immunotherapy - Which 'retrains' the immune system not to over-react to allergen exposure.
Antihistamines do not usually relieve sinus headache symptoms directly but may prevent future sinus headaches by tackling inflammation and congestion.
Migraine headaches can be very disabling, often requiring bed rest for a number of days. The condition is still not completely understood, but is thought to occur when blood vessels in the head dilate with the resulting pressure on nerves causing pain. Symptoms of a migraine include:
- Prolonged headache: Can last between four and 72 hours
- The pain has at least two of the following features: one-sided, pulsating, moderate to severe in nature and increased with physical activity
- The headaches occur with symptoms such as: nausea or vomiting, sensitivity to light or sensitivity to sound.
Some migraine headaches are linked to food allergy. The most common food triggers of migraine are:
- Monosodium glutamate: often added to Oriental foods and packaged foods
- Tyramine: an amino acid found in cheese
- Phenylethylamine: found in chocolate
- Aspartame: an artificial sweetener
If you suspect food allergy is the cause of your migraine headaches, then keep a careful food diary to see if you can find out the trigger. Then it is just a case of trying to avoid that food to see if it helps. There are several medications available on prescription which can effectively treat migraine headaches.
The cluster headache is often very painful. The pain starts suddenly around or behind the eye and radiates outwards. It is described as stabbing, boring, piercing or burning in nature and often accompanied by watering of the eye, runny nose, agitation, nausea and vomiting. Symptoms can be so severe that the person may end up in Accident and Emergency.
Cluster headaches can occur over a number of days, weeks or months followed by long periods of time when no attacks occur. Often attacks are seasonal, occurring in spring or autumn. The agony of cluster headaches are often short-lived, fortunately. However, longer attacks can be relieved by an injection of sumatriptan. There are a number of medications, such as verapamil, which are used to prevent cluster headaches.
You should consider a visit to the doctor if you have headaches that:
- Are frequent, moderate to severe headaches, associated with other symptoms such as nausea or vomiting
- Occur on a daily or weekly basis
- Seriously interfere with everyday life
- Respond only to a great deal of over-the-counter pain relief medication
- If it lasts more than a day