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Can The Weather Cause Headaches?

By: Ian Murnaghan BSc (hons), MSc - Updated: 5 Sep 2014 | comments*Discuss
Headaches Migraines Pressure Temperature

When it comes to headache and migraine triggers it sometimes seems that the list just keeps growing. Many headache sufferers believe that weather is a significant cause of headaches although there is still much debate among researchers about the validity of this statement.

Weather Patterns

Some studies have suggested that migraine sufferers seem to be more susceptible to changes in the weather. Anything from temperature to humidity to barometric pressure can impact migraines. There still doesn't appear to be a definitive answer as to exactly how the weather affects migraines, but it is certainly important for migraine sufferers to examine whether or not weather is triggering head pain.

One of the theories suggested as to why weather impacts migraines is related to oxygen levels. Any changes in pressure affect oxygen levels and it is thought that this may be the mechanism by which headaches occur following certain weather patterns. Blood vessels in the head constrict and expand, leading to the throbbing head pain that is characteristic of a migraine.

Is One Kind Of Weather Worse?

The specific weather patterns that trigger migraines seem to yield mixed results. Some migraine sufferers find they react to changes in temperature while others find air pressure to strongly impact migraine frequency and severity. Many migraine sufferers also find humidity to be the deciding factor and still others experience headaches prompted by a combination of weather factors.

One study found that high heat and humidity combined with low pressure led to headaches. Intense cold is also a trigger for some migraine sufferers so it's wise to ensure you are dressed warmly for cold weather with particular care given to a thick insulating hat that covers your head well. There is also the suggestion that it is not so much the weather type itself but the change that accounts for headaches. This means that an abrupt change will trigger a migraine rather than a gradual seasonal change. A bright sunny day followed by a cold rainy one could thus prompt a migraine for some people. This is possibly due to an increased sensitivity in the brains of those who suffer from migraines.

The Good News

Fortunately, those who do find that the weather prompts headaches or migraines can obtain some advance notice. Keeping tabs on the weather forecast means that you can possibly predict when a headache is more likely to strike. Consider keeping a headache diary where you record weather patterns occurring when you have a headache. This can help you to pinpoint your own personal sensitivities to weather and will help you to prevent and treat headaches occurring from the weather. Anti-inflammatory drugs can also be taken to treat a headache triggered by weather. If you know that a specific weather pattern is coming on, you can take a drug such as ibuprofen or acetaminophen in advance. Some people find that being outdoors in the fresh air is helpful and 'clears' their head although this may be somewhat psychological.

Weather changes shouldn't keep you from enjoying time outdoors, but identifying those weather patterns that trigger headaches and migraines as well as taking medication as a preventative measure should help keep you pain free.

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I'm curious if there is a state or region that is less humid or easier on the head pain? I am in IL and every day can pose a threat whether by heat or drastic day to day temp changes,humidity,pollen/allergens. Any ideas?
Michelle Gradowski - 5-Sep-14 @ 4:52 PM
I recently moved from the the Panhandle of Florida to the south east region of Idaho and have been experiencing headaches. The headaches are mostly noticed when waking up in the morning, although I have had some come on mid- day.Is the low humidity playing a factor?
Krissi - 10-Aug-14 @ 2:41 PM
I strongly believe that the atmospheric pressure and humidity does trigger migraines which I have suffered with for about 10 years.I have noticed that I get very bad migraines when it is very humid, especially over the past few days. My migraine has almost been unbearable andmy forehead feels as if it's going to burst.In addition, it makes me sweat excessively.I tried all kinds of remedies and was even sent to see a specialist who just said I had tension headaches.The only things that cools the pain and disperses it are those cooling gel patches that you can put on your forehead.My problem is that I'm usually sweating so bad when I'm suffering with a bad migraine and have to take the patch off after a few minutes as it gets soaked with my sweating. I can't wait for the weather to change as it's making me feel miserable.
Bren5457 - 29-Jun-12 @ 6:17 PM
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