Shifting Weather Patterns May Trigger Migraine Attacks

Barometric pressure, allergens can play role in headaches 

DAYTON, Ohio (April 9, 2018) – Weather forecasts aren’t just a useful tool in deciding what to wear the next day. For many Americans, it can indicate how they may feel when they wake up in the morning.

A good portion of individuals who suffer from migraine headaches say shifting weather patterns play a role in triggering attacks despite a lack of scientific data to back up their claims, according to the American Migraine Foundation. A dip in temperature, the presence of blowing winds and relentless rains all control the pressure and allergens surrounding our bodies, said Aaron Block, MD, a primary care physician with Franklin Family Practice.

“Weather patterns can definitely bring on headaches whether it’s an actual migraine, a sinus headache or tension headache,” said Dr. Block, who practices with Premier Physician Network. “It’s believed that some people inherit a sensitivity to barometric pressure; bright, sunny days; really windy days; or changes in temperature whether that’s too high or too low.”

The shift in weather patterns can activate the sensitivities a person has and cause the neurons in their brain to misfire, causing a full depolarization. Migraines, for instance, may happen in individuals when they are out on a really rainy day or also be a result of allergens being stirred up in the wind, he said.

“Weather patterns with higher winds can include allergens from budding trees, dusty surfaces or pollen,” Dr. Block said. “For some people the headaches may be in the spring and for others they may not come about until late summer or fall.”

Dr. Block said there are several different steps that can be taken to reduce the risk of weather-related headaches.

Identify the trigger – A headache can’t be avoided or even properly treated unless its cause is known. Keep a headache diary for at least a month or more to chronicle when headaches happen and what variables were present such as the weather that day and what you have eaten. The more detail given in the diary, the better a provider will be able to identify the cause.

“What was going on the day you had the headache?” Dr. Block said. “Did you eat something out of the ordinary? Was the weather pattern changing? Did the temperature fluctuate? Were you recently around someone who was sick?”

Treat the cause – A prevention plan can be created once the cause is determined. For instance, if allergies or sinus pressure are the root cause then maintenance nasal sprays can be used every day to reduce inflammation of the sinus cavities. Oral allergy medication may also help.

Create barriers – Consider staying indoors on days that are extremely windy or be mindful to wear sunglasses or a hat on sunny days if either of those are triggers for headaches. Follow guidelines often given to allergy sufferers such as keeping windows shut and the air conditioning on during high pollen count days, and never hang clothes or sheets outside to dry.

Control what you can – Weather patterns are unpredictable so focus on things in your life that are controllable. Maintain a regular sleep pattern, don’t skip meals, maintain good hydration and avoid food triggers. Try to manage your schedule during times when the weather may be a problem for you so that you don’t get too fatigued or stressed, according to the American Migraine Foundation. 

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