It seemed a good time to reveal the connection between allergies, or sinusitis, and stroke with allergy season right around the corner.
A long, long time ago, when I was 12, I went to the circus with my parents and to their friends’ house after. I developed allergies then, to all the animals, never having a pet of my own at home. My mother wouldn’t allow any pet to wander about except those that were boxed, caged, or swam under water. Thus, I never was subject to knowing.
When we stopped at the friends’ house after the circus, I was already wheezing, congested, hive-y, and miserable. My mother told me to be friendly and stop whatever I was doing. But I didn’t stop because I couldn’t. Finally, after 2 hours, we arrived home and I took the next day off from school because I was so fatigued. Welcome to anaphylaxis.
First, a little background. Anaphylaxis, aka a severe allergic reaction, is known and diagnosed by respiratory and circulatory dysfunction, and usually associated with skin (for example, hives) and mucous changes. Anaphylaxis may be deadly when the circulatory and respiratory systems are severely disrupted. When death occurs, it is usually the result of anaphylactic shock. I was lucky. The symptoms went away by themselves by the next afternoon.
I’m allergic to aspirin and NSAIDS (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs), too. About 20 years after the wheezing et al episode, I took a Motrin, an NSAID, for a bad back and the exact thing happened. This time, I went to the doctor that same day and he told me that I had an anaphylactic reaction.
Sinus problems, or acute sinusitis, related to anaphylaxis affect 1 in 5 American adults each year, according to the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America. Sinus conditions can trigger headaches and congestion (and there’s much more), but a new study from Taipei Medical University in Taiwan says “the inflammation that causes the pain and pressure of a sinus infection also increases the odds of suffering a stroke— by 34 percent for people with chronic sinusitis and by 39 percent for those with occasional acute infections.”
The relationship of acute sinusitis to stroke reflects more of a risk to adults in midlife, since about 37 percent of stroke patients are between 45 and 65, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
“Sinus infections are most commonly caused by the same viruses associated with the common cold,” says Dr. Meera Gupta, assistant professor of allergy and immunology at University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston.