Health experts are still yet to unravel the mysteries that surround the various types of headaches including migraine headaches. The majority of them believe a variety of factors ranging from neurovascular imbalances occurring in the brain to genetics combine to play a role and result in headaches. However, what is the role of weather in the occurrence of migraine headaches? It is found that some individuals who suffer from migraines are more sensitive to changes in weather.
Can Weather Cause Migraines?
Yes, weather can cause migraines. Cloudy, overcast and rainy days produce more headaches. According to an evolutionary theory, getting a migraine headache is actually a protective mechanism of the body against adverse stressors of the environment. According to the theory, due to the headache, the person would seek a more hospitable, safer environment.
The weather-related triggers for migraines are:
- Changes in temperature (extreme cold or heat)
- Bright light of sun
- Dry air
- Strong winds
- High humidity
- Stormy weather
- Sun glare and bright lights
- Very dry conditions
- Barometric changes in pressure
Why Weather Triggers Migraine Headaches
- For some individuals, changes in weather may result in imbalances in certain chemicals in brain such as serotonin, which may trigger an episode of migraine. A headache that has initially resulted from other triggers may be worsened by exposure to weather related trigger for migraines.
- Very dry conditions and high humidity exacerbate dehydration, which is one of the most common triggers of migraine headaches and also can be easily prevented.
- Sun glare and bright lights may activate photophobia (sensitivity to light) in many individuals suffering from migraines.
- As noted previously, migraine headaches triggered due to extreme weather conditions may be due to protective response of the body as they result in the person seeking a more hospitable or safe environment.
- Can weather cause migraines? Yes. According to health experts, individuals who suffer from frequent headaches are more sensitive to environment changes. Their threshold to the response of pain is also low. They suspect the reason behind this is that the people who suffer from migraine headaches have most likely inherited the sensitivity to pain from their parents.
- Why barometric pressure and lightning affect headache so dramatically is not understood completely. According to one theory, changes in barometric pressure may affect the brain pressure or the way pain is blocked in the brain, though it is not surely known. One theory is related to our sinuses. When the barometric pressure is low, the air weight pushing in is lighter. The sinus cavities have outward pushing air. And if the level of pressure in these two areas is disturbed, the sinuses become distended resulted in headaches.
- For lightning, scientists suggest that it may be related to the electromagnetic waves released from lightning or the release of spores from fungi that may result in migraine headaches. However, more study is required.
How to Deal with Migraine and Their Triggers
After understanding can weather cause migraines, let’s discuss how to deal with migraine and their triggers.
- Maintain a migraine or headache diary. This is the initial step that you can take to keep pain from ruining your life. Some individuals have clear symptoms and signs that a headache is about to happen and these signs may appear even 48 hours before the occurrence of headache. These warning signs are referred to as “prodromal” and include: depression, irritability, increased excitability and frequent yawning.
In your migraine diary write: the symptoms of headaches such as the location of pain, what the feeling of pain is like, and other associated symptoms including nausea, vomiting, or sensitivity to smells, bright light or noise; The time when your headache began and ended; any beverages and food you consumed (common headache triggers are caffeine, chocolate, and foods containing preservatives nitrates and MSG); Any weather changes such as high winds, storms or high humidity; any medicine or treatment you took and whether it worked or worsens the headache.
- Stay hydrated. Very dry weather and high humidity conditions can be managed by drinking plenty of water and staying hydrated. Drink at least 8-10 glasses of water daily and more if the weather is dry. You can add lemon and cucumber slices to your water to add flavor. Avoid caffeine and alcohol.
- Monitoring changes in weather and avoiding headache triggers if possible. For instance, staying indoors during stormy weather. Staying indoors won’t help with barometric pressure changes and electromagnetic waves of lightning but it will definitely help you avoid exposure to high humidity, extremes of temperatures, cold and windy weather and bright sunlight and sun glare.
- Take migraine medicines at the first symptom or sign of a headache. Treatment for migraine differs from individual to individual and also depends on the severity of the headache. Some individuals may manage their symptoms with OTC painkillers such as Tylenol (acetaminophen), Advil, Aleve (ibuprofen) and Excedrin. If your headache is not relieved by OTC painkillers, then your physician may prescribe you a medicine. Prescription medicines for migraines are: ergotamines, triptans, antinausea medicines and codeine and other types of opioids. Opioids may cause addiction; hence, they along with other medicines should be used under the guidance of your physician.
- Get at least seven to eight hours of sleep every night.
- Do regular exercise. Perform at least 30 minutes of aerobic or moderate intensity exercise on most days of the week. The exercise could include brisk walking, jogging, swimming and biking.
- Eat a well-balanced diet. Eat a healthy and well-balanced diet that is rich in fresh fruits and vegetables and whole grains. Don’t skip meals particularly breakfast. Eat small meals at regular intervals of two hours.
- Manage your stress levels. Keep your stress under control by practicing relaxation techniques such as yoga, meditation, breathing exercises, listening to relaxing music, reading books, etc.
- Avoid potential drink and food triggers of headache.
- Check the migraine forecast on AccuWeather.com. There is a new feature on the website accuweather.com for migraine sufferers and it’s pretty accurate. You can check that too.
Can weather cause migraines? It definitely can. Be smart to avoid it.