Evidence suggests that asthma may make it more likely that a person will develop migraine and tension headaches.

Asthma is a chronic condition that affects the lungs and causes difficulty breathing. Headaches are not a common symptom of asthma. However, some evidence notes that living with asthma may make a person more susceptible to headaches.

Additionally, headaches can also be a side effect of asthma medication.

This article reviews the link between headaches and asthma, medications that may cause headaches, what an asthma headache feels like, and treatment options.

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Evidence suggests that asthma can increase a person’s risk of developing migraine and tension headaches.

In a 2015 study, researchers found that asthma increased the likelihood that a person with episodic migraine would develop chronic migraine. They also found that those with the most severe asthma symptoms had a higher risk.

The researchers suggest the exact cause is unknown. However, the following may link the two conditions:

  • Mast cell degranulation: Mast cells provide signals to the immune system.
  • Autonomic dysfunction: Issues with the autonomic nervous system that controls automatic processes, such as heartbeat.
  • Shared genetic or environmental factors: A 2018 study suggests that, like individuals with asthma, people with migraine often go to the hospital when air quality is poor.

In a small 2017 study, researchers found that people living with asthma have a higher risk of developing both tension and migraine headaches.

A 2019 study showed a potential bidirectional relationship between migraine and asthma. In other words, a person with migraine has a higher risk of developing asthma, and those with asthma have a higher risk of developing migraine.

A 2021 study found similar results, indicating that migraine and asthma both increase a person’s risk of developing the other condition.

Current research provides no clear answer as to why there is a link between the two conditions.

Doctors can prescribe various medications to help manage asthma symptoms. They all come with potential side effects, such as headaches.

Common asthma medications include:

A person can consider speaking with a doctor about changing medication if they develop headaches after taking them. A healthcare professional may be able to recommend an alternative.

How a headache feels depends on the type.

A migraine headache often feels like throbbing, pulsating pain, usually on one side of the head.

Other possible symptoms can include:

  • nausea
  • vomiting
  • sensitivity to light

A tension headache tends to involve constant, mild to moderate pain. It often affects both sides of the head. It may also cause tenderness in the surrounding muscles and scalp and tightness in the forehead.

Asthma can cause several symptoms, including:

  • tightness or pain in the chest
  • shortness of breath
  • wheezing
  • cough

There is no cure for asthma. However, taking medications and avoiding triggers can help prevent or minimize symptoms.

Triggers involve anything that causes symptoms to flare up.

If a person experiences tension headaches as a side effect of asthma medications, over-the-counter pain relievers can help.

Migraine treatment may include preventive options and abortive options. Abortive medications can help stop a migraine attack.

Medications that may help during a migraine attack include:

To help prevent migraine headaches, a doctor may prescribe or recommend:

A person should consult a doctor the first time they experience asthma symptoms.

They should also consider contacting a doctor if their medications do not seem to be working effectively or are causing side effects such as tension headaches or migraine.

Asthma and allergy resources

To discover more evidence-based information and resources for living with asthma and allergies, visit our dedicated hub.

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Some research notes there may be a link between asthma and certain types of headaches. Evidence suggests that people with asthma have a higher risk of developing tension headaches and migraine, and vice versa.

However, researchers still do not understand why this link exists. Sometimes, headaches may be a side effect of certain asthma medications.

A person should consider contacting a doctor if they develop new symptoms or side effects from medications.