Allergies and sinus headaches are tough to deal with. Some people blame allergies for everything, from headaches to sleepless nights. While it’s true that some allergies can cause bad allergies, others do not. Sometimes having allergies can cause sinus infections which then can cause headaches. Different allergic reactions and chemical exposures can also lead to sinus headaches.
What is an Allergy Headache?
An allergy headache is a type of head pain often caused by allergies. Allergies are your body’s response to something foreign in the environment, such as pollen, pet dander, and mold spores. The body becomes agitated and releases chemicals that cause inflammation in your nose and throat. These chemicals then travel up through the bloodstream to block pain-sensing receptors in your brain. This can cause intense discomfort from an overabundance of pressure on the nerves in your skull.
The Link Between Allergies and Headaches
Sinus headaches are created when mucus and other fluids build up in the sinuses and prevent drainage out of the nose. As the fluid builds up and expands in your sinuses, pressure increases. The increased pressure provided by this fluid buildup can lead to pain and discomfort throughout the head, neck, and face, which is felt like a sinus headache.
Symptoms of Sinus Headaches
Sinus headaches are characterized by pain at the front of your face and around your eyes and forehead. They can also cause pain behind your eyes, called orbital pain.
The symptoms of sinus headaches include:
- Pain on both sides of the face
- Excess mucus from the nose that is thick and yellowish (not clear)
- Pain when bending over or lifting things (like shaving)
- Nasal congestion or runny nose (but not always)
- Sore Throat
Triggers of Sinus Headaches
Allergies are one of the most common triggers for sinus headaches. However, many people don’t know that allergies can trigger headaches, not just symptoms like congestion or runny nose.
You may be suffering from an allergic reaction and not even realize it. Common triggers of allergic sinus headaches include:
- Mold Spores
Mold spores are the microscopic result of the lifecycle cycle of any fungus. You may find mold in the home, office, or bedroom. The dust mite is a tiny insect that can feed on mold spores, which will aggravate your allergies, asthma, and sinus symptoms.
Pollen is one of the most common allergy triggers, especially for people with seasonal allergies. Pollen can cause an allergic reaction in your nose, mouth, and throat – symptoms that can develop over a few hours or several days after contact with pollen.
- Animal Dander
Animal dander, or pet allergies, is the most common allergen in your home. It’s found in dogs, cats, and other animals’ fur, saliva, and skin flakes. You may be allergic to your pets.
Treatment and Home Care
The most common treatment for sinus headaches caused by allergies is antihistamines, which help reduce inflammation in the nose and sinuses. If you have allergies, it’s essential to take these medications as prescribed by your doctor.
Other home care and treatment options include:
If you have allergies, try immunotherapy. Immunotherapy is a treatment for allergies that helps build up resistance to allergens. This can help reduce symptoms over time, but it usually takes several years of immunotherapy treatment to see the full benefit.
- Over-The-Counter Pain Relievers
You can also try pain relievers such as ibuprofen or acetaminophen. If you use these medications, it’s important to remember that they won’t relieve your allergy symptoms but may help alleviate some of the pain associated with them.
- Nasal Corticosteroids
Nasal corticosteroids have been proven effective in treating allergies and asthma in many patients with chronic rhinosinusitis, including those with allergic inflammatory disease and nonallergic illness. The mechanism of action for intranasal corticosteroids is likely mediated by suppressing the inflammatory response to allergens, as demonstrated by reductions in eosinophilic inflammation and vasoactive mediators such as leukotrienes. In addition, intranasal corticosteroids can help restore structural integrity by diminishing the loss of ciliated epithelium.
- Saline Nasal Sprays
Saline nasal sprays are among the most popular allergy sinus headaches treatment forms. A complete saline nasal spray kit may include a bulb syringe, saline solution, and other accessories. A saline nasal spray will help soothe inflamed, irritated nasal passages and provide immediate relief from symptoms such as coughing, sneezing, and congestion.
- Oral or Nasal Decongestants
Oral or nasal decongestants are drugs that relieve nasal and sinus congestion symptoms by reducing swelling in the nasal passages. Oral decongestants include antihistamines, theophylline derivatives, and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs. Nasal decongestants include oxymetazoline hydrochloride and phenylephrine HCl.
The following tips may also help:
The application of hot compresses to the face is an age-old remedy and is still used today. There are special receptors (trigger zone) in the nasal mucosa that react to heat with vasodilatation. Therefore it makes sense that the application of warm, moist cloth to these areas can facilitate microcirculation.
Drink plenty of fluids to thin any mucus causing stuffiness. Some other ideas include: Humidify your home and car to prevent dryness that can trigger nose bleeds. Nasal saline rinses are beneficial if you get itchy or painful eyes or have post-nasal drip causing a sore throat. Try nasal steroids as instructed by your doctor. This helps reduce inflammation.
Steam inhalation is an effective treatment for sinus headaches. The steam helps thin and dissolve mucus, which can drain entirely from your nasal passages. This brings comfort and can relieve the pain associated with a sinus headache.
When to Contact a Doctor
If a sinus headache is affecting your daily activities or is otherwise limiting your quality of life, it might be time to consult with Philadelphia ENT specialist. If a diagnosis is not available after a thorough exam, additional diagnostic testing may help.
Headaches are one of the most common symptoms of allergy sinus inflammation. With this in mind, it is essential to understand that although headaches are a vital symptom, they’re not always a sign of a severe condition. For example, suppose you have recurrent headaches that are mild in intensity and do not improve with over-the-counter pain relief medications like acetaminophen (brand names include Tylenol), ibuprofen (Advil), aspirin, or naproxen sodium (Aleve). In that case, you may consider visiting an otolaryngologist (a medical doctor specializing in diseases of the ear, nose, and throat) for further evaluation.
Even if you know that allergies can cause sinus pressure and headaches, the connection may seem less evident than headaches from the flu or other ailments. But since airborne irritants cause most allergies, it’s easy to see why these headaches would be expected among allergy sufferers. The good news is that there is some effective allergy treatment at home options to uphold your health.