New Research Supports What Patients Already Know: Weather Can Trigger Migraine

New U.S. research suggests that a hot day can increase the risk of a migraine the next day.

In fact, the risk goes up 7.5% for each 5º Celsius (9º Fahrenheit) increase in temperature.

Unlike other headaches, migraines are chronic, more common in women (perhaps because of hormonal issues) and do tend to run in families.

Diet can influence how many migraines you get, alcohol and caffeine withdrawal are also well known for their tie to headaches.

Current estimates have almost 18% of women and 6% of men in the United States admitting to dealing with these crushing headaches.

The options to help manage the pain and nausea have improved drastically, and this along with lifestyle changes and other self-help strategies can make a huge difference in the frequency and severity of headaches for many people.

Beyond rise in temperature, this work found a weak link between lower barometer readings and migraine headaches. So keeping an eye on air pressure or a coming storm might also be a good idea.

The connection however isn’t as strong as the one to temperature, but it is there and could provide an early warning that a headache is more likely.

Mountain climbers or hikers might notice that exposure to the different air pressure at higher altitudes also makes a headache more likely.

Surprisingly the work found no link between air pollution and headaches.

The study, published in the March 10, 2009 issue of the journal Neurology, involved more than 7,000 patients whose headache sent them to the emergency department of a well-known U.S. hospital, Boston’s Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, between May 2000 and December 2007.

Three quarters (75%) of the patients were women. Of the total number of subjects 2,250 were diagnosed with migraine; 4,803 with tension or unspecified headaches.

The research team also used meteorological and pollution monitors to look at environmental factors like temperature, air pollution index and barometric pressure a week before and a week after the visit.

“Fairly consistently, it was warmer on the days that individuals came in than on control days before and afterwards,” explains Dr. Kenneth Mukamal, lead author on the study and a doctor at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center.

No one knows why (or how) temperature might be connected to migraines.

Of course hot days have us leaving cool air conditioning for the oppressive heat outside. The heat makes doing anything physical out of doors while breathing in that heavy air a miserable, sweaty experience.

Even becoming dehydrated (and getting a headache as a symptom) is more likely on hot days. We need to remember that headaches (migraine or tension) are a complex process that may be affected by many things, some of which science has yet to understand.

Dr. Mukamal points out, “These findings help tell us that the environment around us does affect our health and, in terms of headaches, may be impacting many, many people on a daily basis.”

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New Research Supports What Patients Already Know: Weather Can Trigger Migraine continued

At last the research confirms what lots of people who deal with migraines on a regular basis already suspected, that weather can trigger a headache.

Knowing this, it certainly will do you no harm to keep an eye on temperature and barometer readings and use this data to help you ward off an attack.

This doesn’t mean taking medication “just in case”, but rather bring your sunglasses, keep eyestrain to a minimum and avoid other triggers that might add to the higher temperature in bringing on a crushing headache that makes you want to run for the quietest, darkest place you can find.

To your good health,

Kirsten Whittaker
Daily Health Bulletin Editor