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HeadWay, Issue #065 -- Migraine, Allergies and Medications
January 21, 2009

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In this month's issue:

Allergy and Migraine - Taking the right medications

Must-reads at Headache and Migraine News:

Say what?!  Thermography

Allergy and Migraine - Taking the right medications

Will treating allergies help fight your migraine?  Are you just trying to get rid of symptoms, when there's really an allergy at the root of the problem?  What about an allergy headache - is that the same as a migraine attack?

There's a lot of confusion about the link between allergies and migraine.  And they're important questions, because they make a difference in what treatment you look for, and how you choose medications.

Food Allergies?

A couple of months ago I answered a question from Romy (from Australia).  Romy was asking about the link between food allergies and migraine.

A true food allergy headache is actually very different from migraine, and requires immediate treatment.  The headache (often accompanied by other symptoms) comes on suddenly after you eat the food.  (read more of my answer on food allergy here)

True food allergies are different from food intolerance, or the food triggers that migraineurs are so familiar with.  These are harder to pin down, and often triggers "add up" over a period of time to trigger the migraine attack.

Food allergies - you should be aware of them, but they're probably a different thing than food triggers that start the migraine chain reaction.

Nasal Allergies?

What about seasonal allergies - hay fever, or pollinosis?  Is that linked to my migraine attacks?

That is far more likely.  In 2006, for example, a study found that people with hay fever were far more likely to have migraine as well (more here).  And some people find that their migraine attacks increase when the season for nasal allergies comes around.

So, are the nasal allergies causing your migraine?

No, probably not.  From what we know of the roots of migraine, if you don't have migraine disease, no amount of nasal allergies are going to cause an attack.  And people with no hay fever (like me) may also get migraine.

But could the allergy trigger an attack?  That's more likely.  In other words, people with migraine more be more susceptible to attacks when nasal allergies strike.

But there's another possibility.  It may be that migraine and nasal allergies have a common biological root, so that people with one are simply more likely to get the other.

What about Medications?

So what about the medications?  I'll tell you one thing for sure.  The asthma and allergy doctor will suggest you take allergy medications.  The headache and migraine doctor will suggest migraine medications.

The key here is to get an informed, specific diagnosis.  If you truly have a seasonal allergy, it may be that medication for your allergy will prevent some migraine attacks - by lessening the allergy symptoms, not by specifically stopping the migraine.

But be warned - many people suspect allergies, when they're really not a problem.  Why?  Because a major symptom of migraine is congestion.  That's right - migraine attacks make you congested, and may even make your eyes water.  There's no evidence that taking allergy medication will help you in this case.

Here's what to do.  If you're experiencing coughing, congestion, sneezing, and other symptoms that are often related to nasal allergies, pay close attention to when they happen.  Are they seasonal?  What time of day?  Do they increase with physical activity?  How much activity?  Do they change with your environment?  What headache symptoms are present, and when?

Talk these things over with your doctor.  Be aware that you may need to go to a specialist - many doctors are not as familiar with migraine symptoms as they should be.  Blood tests and skin prick tests may be recommended to rule out allergies.

A careful diagnosis should help you target in on the treatment you need, without wasting unnecessary time and money, and putting your body through something that could be avoided.

Read more:

Must-reads at Headache and Migraine News:

There's a lot happening at the blog as always!  Here are some articles from the last few weeks that might answer questions you've been having:

Say what?!  Thermography

Thermography analyses your skin temperature by taking scanning your body with an infrared camera.  The resulting colour picture - a thermogram, shows the differences in heat in different colours.

There has been interest in thermography as a tool for diagnosing different types of headache, or for seeing changes in the progression of an attack.  However, so far it hasn't been as useful as was hoped, and other methods of diagnosis are preferred.

Thanks for reading!  Remember, if you have feedback or ideas for future issues, visit the HeadWay MailRoom.  Your password is nomoache.
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