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Can weather trigger a migraine?

Lankenau Medical Center January 24, 2014 General Wellness

You’ve probably heard some people say they can “feel it in their bones” when a storm is coming. But could you be feeling it in your head, too? For some patients, painful migraine headaches seem to come with changes in the weather.

“Weather is one of the most common triggers of migraine headaches. Bright sunlight, the glare of the sun on snow, strong winds, and oncoming storms can all precipitate headaches,” says Elliot Schulman, MD, neurologist at Lankenau Medical Center.

A change in barometric pressure is usually to blame for these weather-related migraines. Even without a visible change in condition or temperature, barometric pressure can cause an imbalance in brain chemicals like serotonin, which can prompt a migraine or worsen a regular headache that started from a different cause like stress or lack of sleep.

So what should you do if the weather is causing your headaches? First, take medication as soon as you feel a migraine coming on to keep it from getting worse. Pay attention to factors that you can control like eating a healthy diet, drinking plenty of water, exercising, getting enough sleep, and managing stress so they won’t worsen your migraines.

To better understand what weather changes specifically cause your migraines, keep a journal to take note of when you’re getting them and your level of pain. By understanding your triggers, you’ll be able to anticipate headaches before they happen.

“If you can, stay inside on very hot and sunny days if they tend to trigger your migraines,” says Dr. Schulman. “If you have to go outside, protect your face by wearing sunglasses or a hat when it’s sunny out and keep hydrated. Shielding yourself from the elements can help.”

If your headaches persist, even when there are no changes in the weather, make an appointment with your primary care doctor, who can refer you to a neurologist for treatment options or if they suspect it could be something more serious.