WRAL WeatherCenter Blog

Hot weather can bring on migraines

Posted August 13, 2011 9:58 p.m. EDT

The heat has been the main weather story for much of July and August!

We can blame the heat for a variety of our woes. Our utility bills have been higher and we’ve had to get very creative with ideas on how to beat the heat but if you suffer from migraine headaches like I do, you can now blame the heat for that too.

A recent study done by the National Headache Foundation found that most migraine suffers attributed the up to 75 percent of their headaches to weather. Heat can lead to migraines for a variety of reasons. The biggest reason is that migraine suffers are more sensitive to weather changes.

Long summer days of direct sunlight, much like we see during heat waves, pose a higher risk of triggering migraines. Changes in the atmospheric pressure are also to blame. The barometric pressure impacts blood vessels in and around the brain, causing them to dilate or swell.

When we have high heat and high humidity, we also see an increase in thunderstorm activity. It’s been documented that headache suffers notice the onset of migraines increases in the afternoon. In the summer, we see lots of afternoon showers and storms. When a thunderstorm forms, the atmospheric pressure decreases. This pressure change can bring on late day headaches.

Since there is nothing we can do about the weather, the only way to decrease weather-related migraines is to plan ahead. Try to run errands and exercise early in the day or after the sun sets. Apply cold packs to the head and neck and stay hydrated with water or other nourishing beverages.

We can look forward to cooler weather soon as fall approaches but until then migraine patients need to pay close attention to the weather.