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How the Weather Affects Your Migraines

Updated on April 22, 2020

Article written by
Laurie Berger

If your migraines are impacted by weather conditions, you’re not alone. Many MyMigraineTeam members find that barometric pressure changes — changes in the air pressure in Earth’s atmosphere — can trigger migraines. In fact, more than one-third of people with migraines notice a connection between weather changes and their headaches, according to a 2017 study of atmospheric pressure and headache pain.

Researchers are not sure why weather changes trigger migraine headaches. They believe that falling barometric pressure may cause an imbalance in brain fluids that can trigger a migraine attack in those who are sensitive. Weather changes can also worsen a headache caused by other migraine triggers.

Common weather-related triggers include:

  • Bright sunlight and sun glare.
  • Extreme heat or cold.
  • High humidity.
  • Extremely dry conditions.
  • Stormy weather.
  • High winds.

“Rainy, cloudy, overcast, snowy, cold, all trigger my migraines big time,” said one MyMigraineTeam member. “When I wake up with a migraine, I know some crazy pressure system is moving in,” shared another. “I can feel a storm coming before it’s even known by the weather person,” said a third member.

Treatment Options For Migraines Triggered by Weather

Because weather is a migraine trigger and not a subtype of migraine, weather-related migraines are treated with the same medication as any other migraine.

These may include prescription-strength non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), triptans such as Relpax (Eletriptan) or Imitrex (Sumatriptan), and other rescue medications.

Propranolol, sold under the brand names such as Inderal and InnoPran XL, is a blood-pressure medication frequently prescribed for “pressure” headaches. Propranolol, a beta blocker, provides relief from weather-related migraines for some members of MyMigraineTeam. “I started taking Propranolol for weather migraines last month,” said one member. “So far, only one migraine in more than two weeks!”

Side effects from Propranolol — dizziness, nausea and vomiting, fatigue, and insomnia — have forced some MyMigraineTeam members to switch medications. “I used Propranolol for half a year,” said one member. “It reduced my migraine count, but the side effects were unbearable. I couldn't stand up quickly, I’d fall down again, and it made me really dizzy and tired.”

Another MyMigraineTeam member who benefits from the drug shared a common workaround. “I've been on Propranolol for more than a decade,” she wrote. “It gives me terrible heartburn, so I also take a prescription [heartburn medication]. I don't know what my migraines would be like without it.”

Several members report success managing weather-related migraines with cannabidiol (CBD) — orally or topically — where legally available. One Arizona transplant tried 10 drops of CBD under the tongue after moving to the state, where CBD is legal. They reported that they “felt the migraine go away within 15 minutes! This might be my answer!!!🤞🏻🤞🏻🤞🏻”

Always talk to your doctor before adding CBD, or any other treatment or supplement, to your routine.

Can Changing Locations Stop Barometric-Pressure Migraines?

Moving to a warmer or less-volatile climate seems like a good migraine antidote to many MyMigraineTeam members. But those who’ve tried it say that weather-related migraines followed them to their new homes.

“In Arizona, I experienced a lot of migraines 😳,” wrote one member. “The weather was up and down, with 20- to 30-degree temperature changes!”

“I left Seattle — because the weather there is killer for migraines — and tried Tucson,” explained another member. “It was just as bad. A headache specialist there said, ‘If a city has lots of headache clinics (Tucson does), avoid it!’ Miami, San Diego, and Honolulu are supposed to be good. There’s a list you can Google: Best and worst places to live with migraine.”

Other Approaches to Managing Barometric-Pressure Migraines

Apart from medications, there are other steps you can take to identify your migraine triggers and prepare for forecasted weather changes that may bring migraines with them.

Keep a Headache Diary

The American Migraine Foundation advises keeping a diary that includes:

  • Each migraine experienced.
  • When it happened.
  • How long it lasted.
  • What might have caused it.

A diary can help detect specific weather triggers and provide data to help your neurologist prescribe appropriate treatment options.

There are several ways to keep a headache diary. The National Headache Foundation (NHF) recommends two smartphone apps: The neurologist-designed Migraine Monitor and Curelator N1-Headache offer headache trackers, medication logs, and detailed reports that can be used in doctor discussions.

NHF also offers a downloadable headache diary that tracks date, time, pain intensity, preceding symptoms, triggers, medication, and level of relief. Some people prefer written headache journals. These can be as detailed as you’d like and include foods eaten, hours and quality of sleep, and migraine symptoms throughout the day.

Track the Weather

Weather apps are a popular tool for managing migraines. One woman on MyMigraineTeam shared: “WeatherX pressure-filtering ear plugs and app allows me to look ahead at barometric pressure a day or week at a time. I can't do anything about the weather, but if I can anticipate a migraine day, I can hold off booking appointments, drink more water, up my dose of CBD for a few days prior, and get my ice packs and meds ready.”

Tips for Reducing the Risk of Weather-Related Migraines

It may not be possible to completely avoid a headache caused by barometric pressure, but these expert recommendations can help reduce risk — or manage symptoms.

Avoid Other Migraine Triggers

When the weather changes, limit or avoid common migraine triggers including alcohol, red wine, processed meats, and caffeine withdrawal.

Stay Hydrated

Fluid loss from daily activity can cause blood vessels in the brain to contract and lead to headaches, so it’s important to stay hydrated. Make sure to drink at least six 8-ounce glasses of water each day, and even more after exercising.

Reduce Migraine-Related Stress

Changes in the weather may make those who are weather-sensitive anxious about the possibility of oncoming migraines. Deep breathing, meditation, and relaxation techniques may help reduce tension that can trigger headaches.

Take Magnesium

The American Migraine Foundation suggests taking a daily magnesium oxide supplement to prevent migraines. Boosting intake of this mineral prior to weather changes may help reduce the risk or severity of a migraine headache, according to the Cleveland Clinic. Always speak to your doctor before adding a new supplement to your regimen.

Ask Your Doctor About Preventative Medications

Preventative medications are taken daily to stop headaches before they start.

Carry Migraine Medications With You

Make sure your prescriptions are up to date and filled, so you’re not caught off guard during a weather change.

Wear Sunglasses

Bright light and sun glare can trigger a migraine in some people, so always keep your shades handy. Researchers have also found that certain colors of light can cause sensitivity in migraine sufferers. Special FL-41 lenses may provide relief by filtering out those colors.

On MyMigraineTeam, the social network and online support group for those living with migraine headaches, members talk about a range of personal experiences including migraines caused by barometric pressure changes.

Here are some question-and-answer threads about migraines and weather changes:

Here’s a conversation about barometric-pressure migraines:

Do weather changes trigger your migraines? How do you track and manage your barometric-pressure migraines? Comment below or post your migraine tips and experiences at MyMigraineTeam. You'll be surprised to learn how many others share similar stories.

References

  1. What is Barometric Pressure? — Setra
  2. Barometric Pressure and Migraine — American Migraine Foundation
  3. Migraine Headache? Rain Must Be in the Forecast – Cleveland Clinic
  4. How To Manage Weather-Related Migraines – Brain & Life
  5. Oral Triptan Therapy – American Migraine Foundation
  6. Abortive Drugs for Migraines – National Headache Foundation
  7. Headache Journals: Tracking Your Migraine – American Migraine Foundation
  8. Migraine Apps to Download Now – National Headache Foundation
  9. Migraine Monitor
  10. N-1 Headache - Curelator
  11. Headache Diary (Form) – National Headache Foundation
  12. Living With Migraine: Diet and Migraine – American Migraine Foundation
  13. Magnesium – American Migraine Foundation
  14. Preventative Treatments — American Migraine Foundation
  15. Migraine photophobia originating in cone-driven retinal pathways – Brain Journal of Neurology
  16. Migraines & FL-14 Tinted Lenses – University of Utah Moran Eye Center

Laurie has been a health care writer, reporter, and editor for the past 14 years. Learn more about her here.

A MyMigraineTeam Member said:

I live in Boston...one of the WORST places to live if your migraines are effected by changes in weather...this week alone there have thunderstorms,… read more

posted about 2 months ago

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