How does Weather Affect Headache and Migraine?

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March 14, 2022
May 11, 2021
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How does Weather Affect Headache and Migraine?

How Weather Affects Your Migraine 

Many people assume that weather can’t possibly be a factor in their migraines.  Most migraine triggers are more internal factors - hormones, food or even stress - which make them seem more “believable”.  Weather is not a trigger for everyone, but it can be a major trigger for many people with migraine. 

Migraine triggers are things that your brain is more sensitive to, and that sensitivity is what causes migraine.  When you have migraine, even small changes are sensed by your brain, causing your brain to go into “migraine mode”.  The kinds of changes you are sensitive to are unique to you, and can even change over time. Only some people are sensitive to changes in weather as a trigger, but those that are definitely know it. 

What Kind of Weather Triggers Migraine?

You might think that a specific kind of weather is trigger for migraine, but studies have shown that changes of weather trigger migraine more than hot or cold weather, specifically. Many times a change in weather is preceded a few hours earlier by a drop in the barometric pressure - this is that kind of feeling you might have that “a storm is coming” even without the clouds overhead.  People whose migraine is sensitive to weather changes, will often start to notice their migraine symptoms worsening right then. 

Hot weather for many people can be a trigger as well - often, that’s related to dehydration.  Your hydration status can be a trigger - similar to how skipping meals (or even delaying a meal by an hour or so) can trigger migraine. Even aside from weather, make sure you continue hydrating adequately to counter this common trigger. 

What To Do If Weather Triggers Your Migraine 

Many people ask what they can do if weather is a consistent trigger for them.  We often recommend strategies to negate some triggers like stress or hormones.  If specific foods trigger your migraine we recommend avoiding them.  Most people can’t avoid the weather - so what should do in this situation?

Because migraine triggers are sensitivities rather than allergic reactions, you can be more or less sensitive to all triggers due to many factors.  As we explained earlier discussing all of the different kinds of migraine triggers - there is a threshold that exists that determines how sensitive you are to triggers, and whether any specific trigger could lead to a migraine attack.  If your migraine threshold is high, it takes more to trigger a migraine, and there are strategies we have to elevate that migraine threshold. 

We do see that when migraine is poorly controlled, any trigger is more likely to lead to an attack.  If weather consistently triggers your migraines, your doctor will likely consider adding a preventive strategy to your regimen.  This might mean recommending a specific vitamin supplement, or starting a preventive medication.  Once the headache frequency has improved, these may not be necessary anymore - the goal is just to allow you have a better migraine threshold.  

If you'd like to speak with a neurologist specializing in headaches about how you can best prepare yourself and manage your headaches, join Neura Health today.

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Thomas Berk, MD
Thomas Berk is Medical Director at Neura Health and a Clinical Assistant Professor at the Department of Neurology at NYU Grossman School of Medicine
About the Author
Dr. Thomas Berk is Medical Director of Neura Health and a neurologist and headache specialist based in New York City. He has over 12 years of clinical experience, having graduated from the NYU Grossman School of Medicine in 2010. He completed his neurology residency at NYU as well and is a board-certified headache specialist, having completed a headache fellowship at the Jefferson Headache Center. He is an emerging leader of the American Headache Society and has been on the Super Doctors list of rising stars for the past five years.

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