Can Weather Trigger a Migraine Headache?

By Annette GallagherMarch 19, 2019July 2nd, 2021No Comments

Some triggers are obvious to people who suffer from migraine headaches. These include stress, sleep deprivation, smoking, and menstrual periods. But, what about changes in the weather? The first thought that comes to mind is probably the migraine-worsening effects of bright lights on a sunny day. However, there are many people who also claim to suffer from migraines when stormy weather approaches.

Believe it or not, scientific studies have shown a strong correlation between changes in the weather and the development of migraine symptoms. For example, in 2013, a study conducted by the University of Cincinnati reported that lightning strikes were usually followed by an increased risk of 28 percent for migraines and 31 percent for headaches within a 25-mile radius. However, another study conducted in Austria found that the link between weather changes and migraine headaches was small and posed more questions than answers.

Even so, both studies confirm that a correlation exists. So, can weather trigger a migraine headache? According to scientists, the answer is yes. However, it’s important to note that not all people who suffer from migraines are sensitive to weather changes. In addition to this, sometimes weather changes make migraines worse but are not necessarily the original trigger. Here’s what you need to know.

Weather Conditions That Trigger Headaches

Most studies seem to have looked at the influence of storms on migraine headache development. However, there are many other weather conditions that can cause you pain if you already suffer from headaches or migraines. Here are a few of them:

  • Dry air or high humidity
  • Extreme heat or cold
  • Changes in barometric pressure
  • Sun glare and bright sunlight
  • Windy or stormy weather

The exact reason for sensitivity to weather conditions is unclear. Even so, one theory suggests that changes in the weather can trigger brain chemical imbalances. Chemicals affected may include serotonin, which can, in turn, trigger a headache or migraine.

How To Know If the Weather Is Truly to Blame

Before you go to a doctor, it’s a good idea to start keeping a headache diary. In this diary, simply track what the conditions are at the time a headache comes on. Here are some things you should note:

  • What time of day is it?
  • What’s the weather like?
  • If you are indoors, is it cold, warm, dry, humid, etc.?
  • Did you get an adequate amount of sleep last night?
  • When was your last meal and what did you eat?
  • Have you recently consumed caffeine or alcohol?

By making a note of conditions that are present at the time you develop a headache, you may begin to notice a trend. Once you pin down the trends, you may be in a much better position to prove or disprove whether or not changes in the weather conditions, or specific weather conditions, are to blame.

How To Treat Migraines Triggered by the Weather

The good news is, even though you can’t stop Mother Nature from doing what she does, you can make some adjustments to help keep those migraines at bay. See a few of these tips below:

  • Hydrate: Even people who don’t suffer from regular headaches and migraines may develop one if they don’t drink enough water. Hydrating is especially important if you realize you’re more likely to develop migraines when it’s hot, after exercising, or when experiencing dry weather.
  • Upgrade Your Optics: If sunny days and bright lights are your triggers, then consider purchasing sunglasses that use polarized lenses. These have become especially popular for driving. Some are even made specifically for driving at night. If your migraine persists indoors, then consider migraine glasses to prevent triggers from computer screens and LED lights.
  • Stay Indoors: Many elements of the weather can be avoided if you just stay indoors. This is even easier if you work from home, or don’t have a corner office with a panoramic view.
  • Diet Changes: Some migraine types, such as abdominal migraines, may be worsened rather than triggered by the weather. A patient’s diet tends to contain a lot of potential triggers, so it’s important to start there. We highly recommend a vestibular migraine diet to identify those triggers and remove them. Common diet triggers include caffeine, peanut butter, cheeses, and some fruits.

Get Help

If you’ve been suffering from migraine headaches that may be triggered by weather conditions, you may feel helpless. After all, it’s not like you can simply change the weather, and staying indoors is not always an available option. Thankfully, the National Headache Institute can help. Contact us for more information about how we can help you to lead a happier, healthier, pain-free life.