By Dr. Hida Nierenburg, Director of Headache Medicine, Nuvance Health
If you are living with migraines, you have probably noticed that certain triggers bring on your headaches. Common triggers include certain foods or beverages, or medications, bright lights, loud noises, strong smells, stress, or sleep changes. The warm, humid days of summer may also make some people more likely to develop a migraine or contribute to worsening migraine symptoms.
In fact, patients with both episodic and chronic migraine consistently report worsening symptoms with extreme weather changes, hot or humid weather, or changes in barometric pressure. However, researchers have been unable to find sufficient scientific evidence that identifies a clear correlation between migraine and weather. Despite this, many headache specialists recognize weather factors mentioned as potential migraine triggers.
Several studies attempting to find a scientific correlation between weather and migraines have yielded conflicting results. These contradictory results could be caused by several challenges that may affect researchers’ abilities to establish this correlation.
For example, many people with migraines have several triggers that could potentially affect them at the same time, so it’s difficult for researchers to single out the weather as the cause of someone’s migraine symptoms. Also, the definition and description of weather changes can be different for each person, and some people may be more sensitive to weather-related changes than others.
Minimizing weather-related migraine symptoms
If you notice that your migraine symptoms get worse in the summer, you’re not alone — and there are a few things you can do that may help you feel better.
The first step in minimizing the impact of weather on your migraine symptoms is understanding that high temperatures or high humidity can be a trigger.
While you may be able to control some migraine triggers such as alcohol intake, food intake, lack of sleep, and dehydration, it’s impossible to control the weather — making it one of the more challenging triggers to manage.
According to the American Migraine Foundation, if you notice that high temperatures or high humidity trigger your migraines, you should first manage the triggers that you can control by focusing on:
- Staying hydrated and drinking at least eight glasses of non-caffeinated fluids per day
- Getting proper sleep (7 to 8 hours per night)
- Eating regular meals
- Avoiding food triggers
Some people with weather-related migraine triggers may also find it helpful to track weather closely and avoid spending time outside during high peak temperature hours. It’s also essential to have rescue medications readily available in case a migraine strikes.
Related article: Woman receives “life-changing” migraine care at Nuvance Health
The bottom line: Although there’s no clear scientific link between weather and migraine, some people with migraines report worsening symptoms in the summer months. If your migraine symptoms are affected by summer weather, managing the triggers you can control, tracking the weather, avoiding outdoor activity during peak temperature hours, and keeping rescue medications on hand will give you the best chance of having a safe, symptom-free summer.
Dr. Hida Nierenburg completed her fellowship in headaches at Mount Sinai Roosevelt Headache Institute in New York City, and her residency in neurology at Georgetown University Hospital in Washington D.C.
Headache support group
If you get migraines or headaches, you’re not alone! Millions of Americans suffer with headache disorders that affect their quality of life. Dr. Nierenburg is leading a support group for people with headache or migraine concerns. This year, the support group will meet virtually at 5:30pm on 8/27, 9/24, 10/22, 11/19, and 12/17. To register, email HQMPNeurology@health-quest.org. There’s no cost to register.
About migraine, headache, and facial pain services at Nuvance Health
Migraine and other headache disorders are the eighth leading cause of disability worldwide. In the United States, at least 37 million people are affected by this disabling condition. Only five percent of these patients are properly treated and diagnosed, making effective headache care a critical need.
Our team is led by board-certified, fellowship-trained neurologists who are headache specialists. We focus on the diagnosis and treatment of primary and secondary headache disorders using patient-centered treatment to improve quality of life. Although most headaches are not life-threatening, they can be debilitating and affect work and family life. Our headache specialists offer comprehensive patient education to help patients better understand their condition for optimal relief. To learn more or find a physician, please visit our website.
Amy Forni, Manager, Public Relations