What kind of allergies cause headaches

The most common allergen is pollen, a powder released by trees, grasses and weeds that fertilize the seeds of neighboring plants. As plants rely on the wind to do the work for them, the pollination season sees billions of microscopic particles fill the air, and some of them finish up in people’s noses and mouths.

Spring bloomers include ash, birch, cedar, elm and maple trees, plus numerous species of grass. Weeds pollinate in the tardy summer and drop, with ragweed being the most volatile.

The pollen that sits on brightly colored flowers is rarely responsible for hay fever because it is heavier and falls to the ground rather than becoming airborne.

Bees and other insects carry flower pollen from one flower to the next without ever bothering human noses.

Mold allergies are diverse. Mold is a spore that grows on rotting logs, dead leaves and grasses. While dry-weather mold species exist, numerous types of mold thrive in moist, rainy conditions, and release their spores overnight. During both the spring and drop allergy seasons, pollen is released mainly in the morning hours and travels best on dry, warm and breezy days.

Pollen count

How do scientists know how much pollen is in the air? They set a trap.

What helpful of allergies cause headaches

The trap — generally a glass plate or rod coated with adhesive — is analyzed every few hours, and the number of particles collected is then averaged to reflect the particles that would pass through the area in any 24-hour period. That measurement is converted to pollen per cubic meter. Mold counts work much the same way.

A pollen count is an imprecise measurement, scientists confess, and an arduous one — at the analysis stage, pollen grains are counted one by one under a microscope.

It is also highly time-consuming to discern between types of pollen, so they are generally bundled into one variable. Given the imprecise nature of the measurement, entire daily pollen counts are often reported simply as low, moderate or high.

The American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology provides up-to-date pollen counts for U.S. states.

Theories About the Link

The scientific basis for the relationship between rhinitis, allergies, and migraine is not clear. Do migraines trigger or worsen symptoms of rhinitis and/or allergies or vice versa? No one really knows, but here are a few of the theories.


Other experts suspect that the release of chemicals from local immune system/inflammatory cells in allergic rhinitis may trigger migraine development in certain people.

For example, when you own an allergic reaction, your body releases histamine, which can cause the blood vessels in your brain to constrict, resulting in or worsening a migraine.

Trigeminal Nerve Activation

One hypothesis involves the trigeminal nerve, a large cranial nerve with endings in the face that supply sensation and some motor or movement function. Rhinitis-associated inflammation and swelling in the nose, as well as allergens, may stimulate trigeminal nerve endings, causing pain signals to be sent to the brain, which may then trigger a migraine.


These conditions involve inflammatory processes, which may assist explain why they often happen together.

Overall, more studies are needed to better understand this link.

Remember: A link implies a possible relationship or association.

It doesn't mean that one medical condition directly causes another. That said, there is clearly the potential for the coexistence of both rhinitis and/or allergies with migraines, especially in people who own both head pain and frequent sneezing or runny noses.

The term allergic rhinitis is often used interchangeably with the term allergies since most types of allergies involve allergic rhinitis.

The fact that rhinitis and migraine so often happen together suggests that doctors caring for patients with rhinitis and/or sinusitis should consider the possibility of migraine.

What helpful of allergies cause headaches

Conversely, doctors treating migraine patients should consider whether rhinitis and/or sinusitis is causing or contributing to migraines, especially in cases where allergies seem to be present.

Itchy eyes, a congested nose, sneezing, wheezing and hives: these are symptoms of an allergic reaction caused when plants release pollen into the air, generally in the spring or drop. Numerous people use hay fever as a colloquial term for these seasonal allergies and the inflammation of the nose and airways.

But hay fever is a misnomer, said Dr.

What helpful of allergies cause headaches

Jordan Josephson, an ear, nose and throat doctor and sinus specialist at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City.

«It is not an allergy to hay,» Josephson, author of the book «Sinus Relief Now» (Perigee Trade, 2006), told Live Science. «Rather, it is an allergy to weeds that pollinate.»

Doctors and researchers prefer the phrase allergic rhinitis to describe the condition. More than 50 million people experience some type of allergy each year, according to the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America.

In 2017, 8.1% of adults and 7.7% of children reported own allergic rhinitis symptoms, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Worldwide, between 10 and 30% of people are affected by allergic rhinitis, Josephson said.

In 2019, spring arrived early in some parts of the country and later in others, according to the National Phenology Network (NPN). Spring brings blooming plants and, for some, lots of sneezing, itchy, watery eyes and runny noses.

According to NPN data, spring reared its head about two weeks early in areas of California, Nevada and numerous of the Southern and Southeastern states.

What helpful of allergies cause headaches

Much of California, for example, is preparing for a brutal allergy season due to the large quantity of winter rain. On the other hand, spring ranged from about one to two weeks tardy in the Northwest, the Midwest and the Mid-Atlantic U.S. [Watch a Massive ‘Pollen Cloud’ Explode from Late-Blooming Tree]


The symptoms of allergic rhinitis may at first feel love those of a freezing. But unlike a freezing that may incubate before causing discomfort, symptoms of allergies generally appear almost as soon as a person encounters an allergen, such as pollen or mold.

Symptoms include itchy eyes, ears, nose or throat, sneezing, irritability, nasal congestion and hoarseness.

People may also experience cough, postnasal drip, sinus pressure or headaches, decreased sense of smell, snoring, sleep apnea, fatigue and asthma, Josephson said. [Oral Allergy Syndrome: 6 Ways to Avoid an Itchy, Tingling Mouth]

Many of these symptoms are the immune system’s overreaction as it attempts to protect the vital and sensitive respiratory system from exterior invaders. The antibodies produced by the body hold the foreign invaders out, but also cause the symptoms characteristic of allergic responses.

People can develop hay fever at any age, but most people are diagnosed with the disorder in childhood or early adulthood, according to the Mayo Clinic.

Symptoms typically become less severe as people age.

Often, children may first experience food allergies and eczema, or itchy skin, before developing hay fever, Josephson said.

What helpful of allergies cause headaches

«This then worsens over the years, and patients then develop allergies to indoor allergens love dust and animals, or seasonal rhinitis, love ragweed, grass pollen, molds and tree pollen.»

Hay fever can also lead to other medical conditions. People who are allergic to weeds are more likely to get other allergies and develop asthma as they age, Josephson said.

What helpful of allergies cause headaches

But those who get immunotherapy, such as allergy shots that assist people’s bodies get used to allergens, are less likely to develop asthma, he said.

The Role of Sinusitis

Since sinusitis (inflammation of your sinus cavities) can cause headaches, and because rhinitis often causes symptoms of sinusitis, it's significant to understand the role of sinusitis in this whole picture as well.

Rhinitis is linked intimately with sinusitis for the following reasons:

  1. Having rhinitis often leads to developing sinusitis.
  2. The nose and sinuses are every essentially one passageway.
  3. Having sinusitis commonly causes nasal symptoms.

The term rhinosinusitis is used interchangeably with sinusitis, but some experts prefer the previous to the latter since sinusitis rarely occurs without rhinitis.

It's significant to note that, too often, a headache in a patient with rhinitis is misdiagnosed as a sinus headache when it's really a migraine. In fact, multiple studies own found that the majority of sinus headaches are actually migraines.

Unfortunately, numerous of these migraines are still treated as sinus infections, so treatment may not be effective in relieving your head pain.

Sinus Headache vs. Migraine


Rhinitis, particularly allergic rhinitis/allergies, and migraine own fairly a few things in common.

  1. They own similar triggers, such as weather changes, strong smells, allergens, and smoke.
  2. They affect the same areas of the body, i.e., eyes, forehead, nose, and face.
  3. They can significantly decrease your productivity, as well as your quality of life, thanks to fatigue, head pain, brain fog, and difficulty sleeping, especially when you own both conditions.
  4. They're both extremely common conditions.
  5. They both get worse during the seasons when allergies are at their peak due to allergic triggers.

Shared Symptoms

Symptoms that allergies, rhinitis, and migraine own in common include:

  1. Pain or pressure behind the eyes
  2. Runny nose
  3. Watery eyes
  4. Nasal congestion
  5. Pain that gets worse when you bend forward

How and when you experience symptoms of rhinitis, however, depend on the type that you have.

Rhinitis Types

Rhinitis is a medical condition that causes inflammation in the lining of your nasal cavity, resulting in nasal symptoms.

Almost everyone experiences it at some point, but some people deal with it seasonally or chronically.

There are a number of types of rhinitis. The most common ones include:

  1. Nonallergic rhinitis: Nasal congestion and postnasal drip are the main symptoms of this type of rhinitis, which is not related to allergies. Typical triggers include certain medications, smoke, weather changes, and strong fragrances, love car exhaust, cleaning products, or perfume. There are a variety of forms of nonallergic rhinitis.
  2. Allergic rhinitis: Also known as hay fever, this type of rhinitis occurs when your immune system reacts to certain airborne substances the same way it would to a virus or bacteria, causing an allergic reaction.

    Typical triggers include trees grass, pollen, mold, home dust mites, and pets, and allergic rhinitis may be seasonal or perennial (year-round).

  3. Mixed rhinitis: This is the most common type of rhinitis in adults and includes both allergic and nonallergic rhinitis.

    What helpful of allergies cause headaches

    However, it's generally diagnosed simply as allergic rhinitis since there isn't a diagnostic code in the United States for mixed rhinitis.


Multiple studies own found that migraine is more common in people who own rhinitis and/or allergies. For example, a 2014 study in Cephalalgia examined the potential link between migraines and rhinitis. In the study, a questionnaire was mailed to approximately 18,000 individuals. Of the 6,000 respondents who were identified as having migraines, 67 percent also had rhinitis.

Results showed that migraine attacks were 14 percent to 28 percent more frequent in those with migraine and rhinitis than in participants with migraine alone.

People who had mixed rhinitis (both allergic and nonallergic) were the most likely to experience an increased frequency of migraines and own more disabling migraines than those without rhinitis.

A 2016 review of existing studies on allergic rhinitis and migraine also found data that supports the theory that people who own both conditions tend to own more severe migraines more frequently.