Living in Canada, we have learned to expect extreme weather changes, from extreme cold and polar vortexes in the winter to scorching hot summers. What’s more, there are often large daily variations in temperature and weather, especially in the spring and fall—one day it’s snowing and 0°C degrees outside, and the next day, it’s hot and sunny, with the thermometer showing 19°C.
Does looking up the weather leave you worried there will be a migraine in your near future? Unfortunately, for those who suffer from migraines, rapid weather changes can also trigger migraine headaches or worsen existing migraines. This article will discuss weather-related migraine triggers and provide some helpful tips to avoid potential brainstorms.
How do weather changes affect headaches?
When seasons change, there are often large variations in barometric pressure, the weight of the air pressing down on the Earth. In fact, barometric pressure varies based on the humidity of the air, temperature, and altitude. When the barometric pressure changes, it creates more pressure between the sinuses, which can trigger migraine headaches.
What’s more, added to the usual migraine symptoms such as nausea, vomiting, aura, and light and sound sensitivity, migraine headaches provoked by barometric weather changes can also cause symptoms such as teary eyes, painful sinuses, facial discomfort, and post-nasal drip.
Other weather changes, such as bright sun, high humidity, and strong wind, can also trigger migraines. Finally, for some people, weather changes can also cause an imbalance in brain neurotransmitters, such as serotonin, triggering a migraine headache.
Managing weather-related migraines
Unfortunately, we can’t change the weather. However, there are certain steps we can take to reduce the effects of changing weather on migraines or prevent them altogether.
1. Keep an eye on weather changes
Monitoring weather fluctuations is essential to avoid potential triggers, especially when seasons are changing and when travelling to another climate. Specifically, it is important to check the weather report for large barometric changes, increased humidity, dry air, extremely high or low temperatures, bright sunlight and sun glare. And, of course, it is best to stay indoors if you know that some of these factors trigger your migraines.
2. Keep a migraine diary
If you suffer from recurring migraines, it’s always a good idea to keep a migraine diary and record the date of each migraine headache, its length, the potential causes, and the weather on that day. Doing this will help you determine whether your headaches are related to specific weather patterns.
3. Take your medication at the start of the migraine
When you notice that you are developing migraine headache symptoms triggered by barometric pressure or weather changes, it is best to take your migraine medication immediately. In addition, if you notice that you suffer from migraines due to weather changes, it is best to speak to your doctor about taking preventive medication. Importantly, your doctor will be able to distinguish between sinus headache and migraine to ensure you are correctly diagnosed.
4. Avoid other migraine triggers
If you notice there are weather changes coming on the forecast, it is best to start avoiding other potential migraine triggers, such as caffeine and alcohol. It is also important to make healthy lifestyle choices at this time—getting a full night of sleep and managing your stress levels. If you know that the sun is bright outside, it is best to wear sunglasses to avoid migraines triggered by sun glare.
5. Drink plenty of water
Staying hydrated is essential to migraine prevention if you are susceptible to migraine headaches. This is because changes in liquid levels in blood vessels surrounding the brain can trigger a headache, which is why it is important to avoid becoming dehydrated. If you see high temperatures and low humidity on the weather forecast, it is essential to drink lots of water and to make sure to carry a water bottle with you when heading outside.
While experiencing weather-related migraines can be very frustrating, there are many effective ways to avoid them or at least to reduce their intensity. And, of course, the best way to prevent migraines triggered by weather changes is to be aware of your migraine headache patterns. The sooner you recognize your migraine coming on, the faster you can act to treat or prevent it.