Living with Migraine

Migraines and Asthma

  • By Andrea

    Is there anyone on this site who has migraines and also has asthma? I’ve had severe and chronic migraines for year, but was just diagnosed with adult onset asthma at the beginning of 2015. I’m 54. I used to use Imitrex injection as my abortive medication which worked well for me, but then in the fall, my headache specialist told me to stop using it because she felt that something ischemic was going on in my body (a whole other story) and if I continued to use the Imitrex which is a vaso constrictor, it could have that effect on my brain. Anyway when I use my rescue inhaler or nebulizer for my migraines, which both contain albuterol, it triggers migraines and now that I only can use Naproxen (no triptans at all), it’s harder to get rid of the migraines. So I’m hesitant to use the inhaler and the nebulizer even when I need to, and if I already have a headache or a migraine, I definitely won’t use it, even if it means that my asthma will worsen. A doctor once said to me that I won’t die from the pain of a migraine, but I could die from not being able to breathe, and I know that’s true, but a migraine hurts so much and can last for days.

    Is anyone having the same problem or experience? How do you handle it? Thanks.

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  • By Lydia Rivers

    I’m not sure if this will help, but it’s some information concerning migraines and asthma that I just came across.

    Maybe someone at or the National Headache Foundation can guide you to a neurologist who will work with all of your conditions in mind and not just tell you to suck it up.

    Sometimes I am unable to use triptans for different reasons, and during those times I keep ice packs ready to apply to my head at all times for as long as needed. I also am able to use caffeine, because in my migraine it is a mild helper and not a trigger.

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  • By Nancy Harris Bonk Moderator

    Hi Andrea,

    Thank you for sharing your story with us. I’m sorry you’re going through a difficult time.

    Migraine is tough enough, but when we add comoribd (can occur at the same time but are not caused by one another) conditions such as asthma to the mix, it can complicate things and can make migraine more difficult to treat. We have information about this here;

    May I ask how often you take something to relieve your head pain? One problem we can unwilling get ourselves into is called medication overuse headache or moh. Moh was formerly called rebound and can occur when we take certain migraine medications, and/or pain relievers, whether they are over-the-counter or prescription, more than two to three days a week. If we are in an moh cycle, our migraines will be more difficult to treat and we can end up in a daily cycle of endless pain that is hard to break. Here is information on moh that may help;

    You mentioned that you see a headache specialist, but I wonder if he is a “true” expert. True migraine/headache experts are board certified in headache medicine, however all neurologists may not be. Neurologists have a hard time being experts in one area because they treat so many different conditions such as stroke, epilepsy, multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s and others. Migraine and headache experts treat one condition all day, every day – migraine and headache – and are the experts. For more information on how these doctors are special and how to find one continuing reading these articles; and

    Hopefully others will be in shortly to share their experiences with you.

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  • By JanetH

    Hi, Andrea–I have both asthma and migraines. I’ve had both most of my life, but didn’t get an official diagnosis for migraine until about a decade ago. I don’t have any stellar wisdom, but one question: what does your dr. or allergist say about using naproxen? I can’t take any NSAIDs except ibuprofen, which I can’t use as it irritates my stomach too much. A few years ago, I pulled my back and was taking Aleve for pain. One weekend, I had such a bad asthma attack, my then-boyfriend almost took me to Redi-Care. Since I rarely get all-out attacks, I booked an appt. the following week with my allergist, who told me that NSAIDs, and especially naproxen (i.e., Aleve) can cause an attack if you are sensitive. Now, if you are not, all power to you, and I hope it helps. But I wanted to raise that flag.

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  • By JanetH

    I’m sorry your nebulizer is causing such an issue. I’ve never had that. Yes, you gotta breathe, although we would prefer it be without the consequence of a headache! I strongly support finding a true headache specialist. I have one, very fortunate, I know. Secondly, I presume you are seeing an allergist vs. family dr. for the asthma? If not, I recommend that. They will be more informed on various combinations of rescue inhaler (for example, Xopenex may not bother you the way albuterol does), and quite possibly, you need to be on Singulair and a steroid inhaler such as Dulera or Symbicort to control the asthma. If the asthma is allergic at all in nature, antihistamines as well as home-environment controls will help some. I will never be cured, unless there’s some miracle, but I can work on lessening my triggers for asthma and allergies, same as migraine. Finally, depending on your insurance, you may want to ask your dr. about Xolair injections, although they are very expensive. I’ve just started them, so can’t tell you if they are working yet or not.

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  • By Jojiieme

    Just wanted to quickly mention that I’ve recently discovered the website which helps you work (with hourly breakdowns) how the next few days will affect your migraines and your asthma 🙂 It’s made a huge difference in our household, especially because my partner has adult-onset ‘silent’ asthma, and he never recognises he’s having an attack until he’s coughing so much he passes out.
    Using the info from that site, and whatever medication you have, should help you feel more comfortable.

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  • By Jojiieme

    Nancy, the past week has been even more exciting for us! I was worried I might sound as if I’m breaching the rules on spruiking a product, but I have no interest in the weather site, just find it very helpful.
    D had a job interview on a high risk asthma day. The worst hours were, of course, around the interview time. He took extra precautions, was therefore better presented and we’re waiting for results.
    On the other hand, I can better predict my weather migraines: very helpful as we had an ISO Standards Audit at work on Monday, with very little warning. It’s an annual thing; this was 2 months early. Pretty major. Blossoming silent migraine, with abdominal migraine effects, but no weather migraine. For me, totally different symptoms which mean I could still work for a few hours, present coherently, and pass Audit.
    I’ve spent the rest of this week feel empowered. This is new.

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  • By Jojiieme

    Oh, it gets even better!
    Yesterday, no weather migraine, no asthma stuff (not until evening – a puffer fixed that). But I learnt that Topamax affects my ability to do simple math!! All this time, I thought it ME!
    It’s so strange, being able to separate out the symptoms this way and attribute them to what’s going on.
    I can see the numbers (in this case, for petty cash reconciliation), do the calculations, and someone else comes along and tells me I’ve added two completely different numbers! When it’s pointed out I see it.
    I’ve been a proofreader, I’m not dyslexic. I have a high accuracy rate (lousy iPad typing). Topiramate slows some of the ‘electrical’ firing in the front of my brain…the bit that’s trying to do this math. I actually feel the tension (it’s really odd, gotta tell neuro this week). Added to the TBI, it’s intermittent maths accuracy 🙂

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  • By jns192 Moderator

    Topamax in an interesting medication indeed! When I was on it a few years ago, I also felt a little foggy and had trouble remembering certain things. I thought you might enjoy this article on topamax side effects. Feel free to take a look on the left side bar for further information on the drug:
    As always, if you notice a new symptom or worsening of an existing symptoms, we encourage you to get in touch with your doctor.
    Jillian ( Team)

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  • By Sherlyn

    I have Migraines and Asthma. I find that during a Migraine I have the need to use my rescue inhaler a lot. And for the next few days I have to really careful, about the going out, cause my lungs are tight and I fear going into a full on Asthma Attack. But I fear that all the time. I am luckier than most, I only have my migraines about every 10 to 12 days, then they last 4 hr to 4 days.

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  • By Still Smiling

    I’ve had migraines for over 10 years and have only just started to show symptoms of asthma. I went to the GP yesterday, absolutely convinced it was asthma, despite not being an asthmatic and she tried telling me I had a virus: no fever, no runny nose, no tiredness, no temperature, just excessive coughing — yeah it’s a virus! She prescribed a reliever inhaler anyway (blue) after I held my ground and argued with her and my symptoms have been better, but I am still short of breath 90% of the time and can’t even manage a short walk without having a coughing fit and getting seriously out of breath. I’m going to go back the GP and demand more testing for asthma, and hopefully preventative medication, but at this point, I am highly curious as the nature of the comorbidity between a migraine condition and what would potentially be adult onset asthma….

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