Holiday Headaches: Migraines and Sinus Headaches

Keep holiday headaches under wraps by learning your unique headache triggers and threshold, says Chicago asthma and allergy specialist, Dr. Brian Rotskoff

Dec 21, 2012, 08:37 ET from

CHICAGO, Dec. 21, 2012 /PRNewswire/ -- December is a time for wrapping up the year and wrapping up the fun. But if you're a chronic headache sufferer, putting on a happy holiday can be tough. Leading Chicago allergy doctor, Brian Rotskoff, MD, helps patients keep holiday headaches under control. It starts, he says, with learning what causes your migraine headaches or sinus headaches and what it takes to cross your headache threshold. Dr. Rostkoff's expertise includes the full range of needs associated with asthma, allergic rhinitis (hay fever), childhood nasal allergies, allergy shots/allergy drops, and other allergic and breathing conditions.

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Building on that knowledge, Dr. Rotskoff designed a thoroughly-researched patient education program centered on identifying and managing personal headache triggers. Patients early in their headache diagnosis process can find significant relief under his care. Those plagued by more severe chronic headache conditions often require an interdisciplinary team including a patient's primary care doctor and a neurologist that specializes in headache disorders. In such cases, Dr. Rotskoff works closely with the patient's doctors to identify all likely triggers and implement an effective treatment plan. "Empowering headache-prone patients is very important to me," he says. "With the right diagnosis and information, patients really can take control of their headaches."

Finding Your Headache Threshold

Avoiding holiday headache disasters starts with understanding the causes and, according to Dr. Rotskoff, it's not as simple as it sounds. Not only does each person have a unique set of headache triggers, they also have a unique headache threshold. "I often use a bathtub analogy to explain the headache threshold to patients," says Dr. Rotskoff. "Consider your personal set of headache triggers as a leaky faucet dripping into a tub. Everyone's tub is a different size, so the point at which your tub overflows and causes a headache is unique. That's your body's headache threshold."

'Tis The Season For Headaches

So what are your headache triggers and how can you avoid them? Dr. Rotskoff works closely with patients to not only identify these headache hazards, but also to clarify sinus headaches from migraine headaches. "There's a misconception that all migraines are debilitating," he says. "Many times patients muddle through what they think are chronic sinus infections when really they're experiencing repeat migraines of varying degrees."

Dr. Rotskoff encourages patients to keep a headache journal, recording details such as time of day and month, sleep habits, environmental factors, and even what they ate and drank leading up to the headache. The information, he says, adds a great deal to the physical examination and ultimate diagnosis.

Headache triggers abound during the holidays, so the more aware you are of your own sensitivities, the better equipped you'll be to prevent painful episodes. While stress may be unavoidable, there are other things to watch out for during winter months:

  • Frequently fluctuating indoor/outdoor temperature
  • Bright lights such as sun glaring off snow or fluorescent lights flickering in stores and offices
  • Strong odors, heavy perfumes, and cigarette smoke
  • Skipping meals
  • Excessive alcohol consumption, especially red wine or beer
  • Artificial sweeteners, processed meats, fermented cheeses, and MSG
  • Poor sleep habits
  • Changes in long-standing caffeine habits
  • Overuse of ibuprofen as a "quick fix"
  • The let-down period after the buzz of the holidays

For some, relief from chronic headaches requires more than a checklist. Clarity Allergy Center invites Chicago headache suffers to explore their symptoms in collaboration with Dr. Rotskoff for a more thorough analysis and prevention plan. Clarity Allergy Center is located in Chicago and Arlington Heights, convenient to zip codes: 60645, 60076, 60068, 60053, 60038, 60089, and 60047 773-877-3500

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