Are you better at predicting weather than a meteorologist? It goes without saying that migraine is the gift that keeps on giving. Different factors cause different headaches and changes in pressure have an impact. The migraine brain is sensitive to changes – and the response to change is generally a migraine attack.
Weather Impacts the Migraine Brain
The effect that weather has on our body depends on how quickly the change happens and how dramatic the changes are. Changes in atmospheric pressure create an imbalance in the pressure within the sinus cavities as well as the structures and chambers of the inner ear, resulting in pain. Whereas barometric pressure changes impact the constriction of blood vessels, oxygen levels, and the over-excitement of areas in the brain that produce pain.
Weather and altitude changes that can affect or exacerbate a migraine attack include:
- Sudden changes in temperature or humidity
- High or low levels of temperature or humidity
- A storm which changes barometric pressure
- Changes in altitude, e.g.: airplane travel or visiting a high altitude location
Seasonal Impact of Weather on Migraine
Each season has its own pressure related migraine impact:
- Summer – Migraine in the Heat: When the temperature and humidity rise so do the number of migraine attacks. Big storms, thunderstorms or hurricanes can also rigger a migraine attack.
- Autumn – Migraine Season of Change: Fall brings cooler temperatures, less humidity and windier days – all lending itself to an increased occurrence in migraine attacks. Seasonal changes can be a huge migraine trigger, and the shift from summer to fall is one of the most dramatic.
- Winter – Dark Migraine Attack Season: Snowstorms, high winds, cold and a lack of vitamin D can all be involved in triggering migraine attacks.
- Spring – April Showers Bring Migraine Powers: Spring brings warmer weather, rain and flowers. The shift in temperature, changing barometric pressure, and an increase in allergens make this season the most miserable for some people with migraine disease.
Tracking Migraine Attacks
We can’t change the weather, but we can identify trends and weather patterns that exacerbate or trigger a migraine attack. In order to be prepared and plan treatment, a detailed headache diary is essential. Information that should be entered in that diary include:
- The date and time of attack
- Where you feel the pain
- Changes in weather at the time of attack
- What the pain feels like
- Whether or not physical activity is a factor
- Other symptoms besides pain
- Any unusual symptoms before the pain starts
- Effective and non-effective treatments used
Learning how to best manage your migraine if you have weather triggers can be challenging. However, since we know that triggers can “stack” in terms of impact, one of the ways you can help avoid bad attacks is to try and avoid additional triggers when a pressure change or other weather challenge is predicted. It’s also important to talk to your headache doctor about your attacks and triggers so that they can help you put together a personalized treatment plan. The treatment plan you and your healthcare provider develop may include anti-nausea medications, abortive and rescue medications, and medical devices. In addition to these there are OTC options such as ice/heat, relaxation techniques, limiting physical activity, taking a warm bath or shower, and getting lots of rest.