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Headache Care

Spring is a Headache for Allergy Sufferers

Thursday, Apr 15 2010

  

Spring is in full bloom and many Americans are beginning to experience the discomfort and health problems triggered by allergies. According to the Allergy and Asthma Foundation of America, an estimated 50 million Americans have allergies, so for many the arrival of spring is not signified by warmer temperatures and blossoming flowers, but by sniffling, sneezing, wheezing, itchy, watery eyes and especially headaches.

An allergy is a response of the body to a substance, which is not always harmful to the body, but which triggers an immune reaction which can cause many different symptoms and diseases in a predisposed person. This reaction can affect any part of the body, causing various symptoms, including allergy headaches. However, there are a lot people suffering from this type of headache, but don’t know the real cause for it. What can one do about these seasonal allergy headaches?

Alexander Mauskop, MD, founder of the New York Headache Center and creator of Dr. Mauskop’s Migralex™, the strongest combination medication for headaches available without a prescription, has great advice for those at risk for allergy headaches. His suggestions include: 

- Identify if your headache is due to allergies: If your headache occurs at specific times or places, accompanied by a stuffy nose, clear discharge or itchy eyes, this is a major warning that you are experiencing an allergy headache. If you think you have a sinus headache, in fact you might be wrong.

- Determine what is causing your allergy: Undergo diagnostic tests or medical examination to uncover what type of allergy you have. This will help to find an effective allergy treatment, which in turn will alleviate headache pain.

- Keep an allergy medication on hand: If your headache is triggered by seasonal or respiratory allergies, consider taking an over-the-counter allergy medication, such as antihistamines (Allegra, Benadryl, Claritin), decongestants (Afrin, Sudafed) or nasal irrigation (Neti pot, SaltAir). By taking allergy medication to ease symptoms, you can potentially avoid a headache all together. If you do get a headache, take Dr. Mauskop’s Migralex for relief.

Tension-type Headache
Tension-type headaches are the most common form, affecting some 100 million Americans every year. They are believed to stem from muscular or emotional tension, although some experts think they may result from biochemical changes in the brain. Triggers include stress, lack of sleep, hunger, caffeine withdrawal, and overindulgence in alcohol. Tension-type headaches usually affect both sides of the head, and are characterized by a pain or pressure around the forehead, scalp, back of the head or neck that has been compared to wearing a too-tight headband. There may be pain, knotting or stiffness in the neck, shoulders and/or upper back, with the pain manifesting as a steady dull ache or an intense “viselike” pressure, rather than a throbbing or stabbing pain. There is usually no sensitivity to light or noise, no nausea or vomiting, and these headaches are not aggravated by physical activity.

Stress Headache
Many researchers have tried to figure out how stress causes headaches. It is a complicated question since not everyone responds to stress by getting a headache. We have convincing evidence to suggest that those people who tend to get headaches have a genetic predisposition. This is to say that they are born with a lower threshold to suffer from headaches than people without such genetic predisposition. But having a lowered threshold is not enough, a trigger usually is required to cause a headache. Stress is one of such triggers, along with lack of sleep, alcohol, loud noise, strong odors, bright light, and others. So, how does stress cause headaches? Our research suggests that depletion of magnesium could be the culprit. Mental stress is known to cause release of adrenalin in the so called fight-or-flight response. The release of adrenalin was shown to cause the release of magnesium into the bloodstream, after which this circulating magnesium is excreted in the urine.

Sinus Headache
Sinus headaches are caused by Sinusitis, an inflammation of the sinus cavities in the face and head that is usually due to infection. These headaches include a buildup of mucus in the sinuses, nasal congestion and discharge, tenderness below the eyes or over the forehead, and sometimes fever, nausea and dizziness. If the sinus headache is caused by an infection, there may be fever, tenderness in the sinus area, and a yellow-green discharge from the nose or back of the throat. If this happens consult a physician, for sinus infections can be dangerous if they migrate to the brain. Seasonal and other allergies can cause nasal congestion which can trigger a headache, even in the absence of a sinus infection.

Menstrual / Hormonal Headache
A significant number of women experience headaches that correlate with hormonal changes of their menstrual cycle. Menstruation, use of birth control pills, pregnancy and menopause can all affect headaches. Fortunately, headaches stop in 2 out of 3 women during pregnancy and after menopause. In many women, the precipitous drop in estrogen is thought to be responsible for premenstrual headaches.

There is significant evidence that magnesium levels are reduced during the premenstrual phase and magnesium deficiency has been linked with blood vessel constriction and with the release of biochemicals that set in motion pain-causing inflammation.

In my studies, up to 50% of people with migraine headaches are magnesium deficient and this deficiency strikes women more often than men. Low magnesium levels also seem to be responsible for other PMS symptoms.

Exertion Headache
Some people experience headaches when they exert themselves physically. This doesn’t mean that the exertion has to be strenuous. In fact, subtypes of exertional headache are cough headache and laughter headache, as well as the lifting headache. Symptoms are a throbbing, sharp pain that can last for minutes or hours. These headaches can sometimes be prevented by taking anti-inflammatory drugs (such as aspirin) before engaging in physical activity. Since the sudden onset of any headache symptom could signal a dangerous underlying cause, it’s important to seek medical advice if the headache persists or occurs for the first time.


For more information, listen now to a recording created from a recent webinar about Spring Allergies, Asthma and Headaches, sponsored by Dr. Mauskop’s Migralex™, featuring presenter Alexander Mauskop, MD. In this webinar, Dr. Mauskop covers allergy headaches, misconceptions about sinus headaches, how headaches are related to allergies and asthma, types of headaches connected to allergies, triggers of allergy headaches, treatment for allergy headaches and more, followed by questions from the live webinar audience. Listen here.

About Alexander Mauskop, MD:
Alexander Mauskop, MD, known as “America’s Headache Doctor,” is a world-renowned neurologist, headache expert, author, and founder and director of the New York Headache Center. He is also creator of Dr. Mauskop’s Migralex™, the strongest combination medication for headaches available without a prescription, which is widely available online at http://www.Migralex.com, Amazon.com and at select pharmacies. He is board-certified in Neurology and Headache Medicine and is an Associate Professor of Clinical Neurology at the State University of New York, Downstate Medical Center.

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