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Old 05-07-2012, 10:30 AM   #1
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Allergens in bedding? (Sinus congestion -> Migraine)

Apologies in advance for the wall of text.

Brief history: diagnosed with migraines in early childhood, triggered by certain foods, excessive heat, and importantly here, untreated sinus headaches.

If I get a sinus headache that goes unchecked for too long, my neck muscles start to ache, and if that goes on long enough, boom, migraine. This is where most of my troubles come from since I can avoid the trigger foods and avoid overheating fairly easily. Sinus headaches tend to be precipitated by pollen, mold, cat dander, dust. Mites, maybe, unsure about this. Normally I'm walking around during the day, I may start to get a sinus headache, I can take some decongestants and painkillers, slather my face in vicks vaporub, pop an imitrex if it's really aggressive, and head it off.

The problem usually comes when I start to get a sinus headache in the early morning, by the time I really wake up the headache has gotten very bad and it's too late to head off. Historically, maybe this is because I had slept on pillows which were suspect (feathers or mildew) or sleept in a dusty room or a bed where a cat liked to curl up, but in the current situation these factors are eliminated. I have two cats but they don't come into my bedroom and I have a HEPA filter running constantly in there.

Regardless, I found that pillows occasionally "go bad" (this is why I think mites might be a thing) and my options are either to wash the pillow, which I've had limited luck with since they don't always seem to dry very well, or else just throw it away. I found it was easier to use a folded towel or some old t-shirts as pillow because these are much easier to wash and dry, and this was working quite well for some time.

However, in the past couple of months it seems that approach has failed me. I can take linens and towels right out of the dryer (thoroughly dry!) and use them that night and wake up sick the next morning.

Yes, I can get up at 3:30 and take a bunch of pills but I effectively can't sleep because I'm re-exposing myself to the trigger if I try. It's exhausting.

I know it's not the air in my room because I only get sick when my face is close to the "pillow." If I lie face up or with my head resting on my arms, I'm ok, but I can't really maintain that while asleep.

All I can think of is that someone in my building is putting something through the dryer that hasn't been washed, like wet towels, and it's getting spores all over the inside of the dryer? It seems like the airflow within the dryer would prevent that sort of accumulation and transfer, but it's all I can come up with.

I generally take 50-75mg of benadryl at bedtime to help me get to sleep regardless, and I am taking Topamax to cut down on migraines, which has helped a lot with the overall incidence of headaches. I tried Flonase before bed but it really didn't do anything. With that out of the way, does anyone have any suggestions? I appreciate your time.

 
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Old 05-07-2012, 10:49 AM   #2
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Re: Allergens in bedding? (Sinus congestion -> Migraine)

Have you considered allergy shot since you seem to have quite a few? That might be a better tack than more meds.

 
Old 05-15-2012, 10:58 PM   #3
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Re: Allergens in bedding? (Sinus congestion -> Migraine)

Hopefully I haven't replied too late for you to see this!

I can only relate to my personal experience, but for perennial allergic rhinitis (all-year-round, non-hayfever allergies), dust mites are a common agitator and, for me, give very similar symptoms to those you experience in the morning. They thrive in bedding and other damp fabrics, gobbling up human skin flakes, and leaving their waste (which actually causes the allergic reaction). The worst part is that dust mites are a completely normal and very common parasite that exist in large numbers in our clothes, bedding, carpets etc.

So, similarly to you, from about the age of 14, my allergies have caused mild to severe sinus headaches in the mornings, usually lessening or being "flushed out" in the form of a runny nose.

There are three things I can suggest you try, the first two of which have really helped me:
1) Wash your bedding covers and sheets religiously. If you have a single comforter (sorry if I'm being confusing - in Ireland a duvet & thin duvet cover is more common), I'd suggest buying an extra cover that can be washed more easily and frequently than the comforter itself (ditto for the pillow). Another important reason for this is that you need to wash bedding at very high temperatures (60-90 degrees celsius) to effectively kill dust mites, but this heat can damage your actual pillows/duvet/comforter. There are also special covers for pillows, which I use, and possibly for duvets/comforters, that are aimed at preventing allergens from penetrating through to the actual pillow. Don't forget to actually wash the pillows/comforter and/or replace them.

The same idea should apply to whatever you wear in bed - pajamas, underwear etc. Wash it at high temperatures!
2) Shower before you sleep. The steam will help open and moisten your nasal passages, relieving sinus buildup/pressure. It has the added bonus of curbing dust mites and keeping your bedding clean.
3) Use a nasal/sinus saline rinse (e.g. 'Neilmed Sinus Rinse'). You use a squirt-bottle or neti pot to push a warm solution (basically water + salt + baking soda) through one nostril and parts of your sinuses, flushing out allergens and giving you some relief. Used frequently (1-2 times a day), I find this really helps (more than anything) prevent sinus infections and headaches.
Some other things which may help:
4) Allergy shots and/or sublingual immunotherapy. These are regular, mild injections of allergens into your bloods via a shot or tablet/drops under your tongue, which aim to decrease your allergic reaction. I haven't personally tried them, but I've heard good things - even though they may take years (3-5) to take effect. I have limited understanding of them, but I believe they work by training a new allergic response from the immune system which bypasses the histamine-releasing response you produce from inhaling allergens (rather than tackling them in your blood). You will need to see your GP, however, and - as far as I know - the shots have to be administered in your GP's office monthly.
5) Breathing through your nose. Your nose is the first line of defence in coping with airborne allergens, and breathing solely through my nose (especially during sleep), has made a big difference for me. Though this may not apply to your situation, I found it very difficult to breathe through my nose after years of coping with asthma, allergic rhinitis, and frequent sinus infections whilst using nasal corticosteroids, nasal sprays etc. (These in turn caused rebound reactions - i.e. effectiveness of these drugs would drop over time, and once I stopped my allergies appeared stronger than before - and I've since read a study that suggests the corticosteroid nasal spray I was taking can reduce your ability to breathe through your nose).

So about four years ago I started using mouth tape to (a tiny vertical strip of tape keeping my mouth shut) to prevent snoring and encourage nasal breathing, as well as trying some breathing exercises. This has helped immensely with my rhinitis and breathing issues. You can also use straps which prevent your jaw from hanging down while you sleep.

My issues might be unrelated to undiagnosed sleep apnea, where your breathing (especially common in mouthbreathers/snorers) becomes temporarily obstructed during the night and interrupts your sleep, so that's worth talking to your doctor about should you see him or her.
-------------------------------------------

The air filter sounds like a great idea, but in addition to this cleaning your apartment (for loose bits of dust, cat dander, and mould etc.) even more regularly might help. Carpets are a big no-no (especially with the cats), and you should try to clean any other fabrics (curtains, furniture) in your apartment, especially in your bedroom.

Also, do you think that you're allergic to your cats? If you are, the best thing you can do in the short term is get rid of them. But that's probably not an option, so you might look into getting an allergy test and shots for your allergies.

Last edited by rictvr; 05-15-2012 at 11:03 PM.

 
The Following User Says Thank You to rictvr For This Useful Post:
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