puzzle pieces being put together, one has a brain, one has lungs, and some have allergens

Asthma, Allergies, and Migraines: What is the Connection?

If you have asthma, you may likely experience some allergies as well. Seven in 10 people who have asthma have at least 1 allergy too. But did you know having asthma and allergies means you also have a higher chance of getting migraines?1

What are migraines?

Migraines are a disorder that affects 39 million people in the United States. It impacts the brain and nerves. Parts of the brain react in an extreme way to something like food, hormone shifts, stress, or weather. This reaction brings on headaches.2

However, these are not normal headaches – they are major ones. The pain can be intense, pounding, and stronger on either the left or right of the head. This pain can persist for hours or days.2

The symptoms of migraines can keep you from working and doing other daily tasks. Lights, smells, and sounds may affect you more than normal. Migraines can alter how you see and make you feel queasy.2

How many people with asthma and allergies have migraines and vice versa?

Research shows that people with asthma and allergies have migraines more than those without asthma and allergies.1,3

A study of 288 people with asthma reported that 1 in 3 had migraines. Nearly 2 in 3 had headaches. About 87 percent of the people assessed in this study had allergy symptoms, and 65.3 percent of those had headaches.1,3

People with migraines tend to have asthma and allergies more than those without migraines.1,3

A study from 2014 found that 2 in 3 people with migraines have allergic rhinitis. This allergy, also known as hay fever, affects the nose.4

Risk factors for migraines

Gender, genetics, and some habits increase the chance that a person with asthma and allergies will have migraines.

In the study of 288 people with asthma, migraines affected women at least 2 times more than men. Migraines were also more common in the people with a record of asthma, allergies, and migraines in their family line. Smoking also raised the risk of migraines in people with asthma.3

How are these conditions connected?

The higher rate of migraines in people with asthma and allergies – and vice versa – points to a connection. Research has helped doctors gain insight into how these 3 disorders relate.

A key link is the way in which the body functions with asthma, allergies, and migraines. The immune systems of people with these disorders make a lot of immunoglobulin E (IgE) in response to things like allergens. The IgE protein defends the body from something that seems harmful to the body.3

Another link is that the symptoms of asthma and certain allergies like hay fever can bring on migraines. How asthma and allergies affect the nerves and inflame parts of the body can lead to migraines. Hay fever causes nasal congestion and snoring. This can get in the way of breathing and result in migraines.1

How are migraines treated in people with asthma and allergies?

For the most part, doctors treat migraines the same way in people whether they have asthma and allergies or not. Prescription and over-the-counter (OTC) drugs are often part of the treatment. Doctors may also suggest changes to one’s diet, exercise, stress reduction, and vitamins like magnesium.4

Some doctors are looking to see if drugs for asthma and allergies can also treat migraines. Some of the first studies offer hope. In one of these studies, a group of people under 45 who got allergy shots had migraines less often.6

More research is needed to say for sure which asthma and allergy treatments may help relieve symptoms of migraines. Certain prescribed drugs may in fact set off migraines. This has been seen with some drugs used to relax the airway muscles in people with asthma.1

Whether you have 1 or all 3 of these conditions, effective treatments do exist. Talk to your doctor about which course of care will best meet your unique needs. They can advise you based on what is known about asthma, allergies, and migraines, and what connects them.

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