If a storm in the forecast fills you with fear of a migraine, you’re not alone.
Research about weather as a migraine trigger is not definitive. But many people report feeling a strong connection between what’s happening outside and what’s going on inside their heads. Along with stress, certain foods and other triggers, weather can set off migraines, says Stewart Tepper, MD, who treats these powerful headaches at Cleveland Clinic.
Watch for weather extremes
Patients who feel a connection between storms and migraines may be responding to changes in barometric pressure, Dr. Tepper says. Pressure changes when a storm or shifting weather front moves into your area.
Other “extremes” may play a part, too. When the storms of spring give way to the dog days of summer — with hot temperatures and high humidity — many people continue to have headaches. If you suspect the weather is behind your pain and other symptoms, keep a headache diary to discuss with your doctor. And don’t just assume it’s a sinus problem, as many people do.
“You try to cross-reference your diary with the weather,” Dr. Tepper says. “Most people who have weather triggers, they know it. They know they’re going to get a headache. The issue has not been whether they know it or not, but whether they get the diagnosis right. And they may mistakenly think they have a sinus problem when, in fact, it’s a migraine.”
What you can do
You can’t control the weather, but you can take steps to minimize your risk — or treat a migraine if it occurs:
- Avoid other triggers when the weather is bad. Stay away from foods that cause migraines, for example, and you’ll remove one risk factor from the mix.
- Keep rescue medications handy. If you know certain drugs work for you, make sure your prescriptions are up to date. And if you have not tried rescue medications before, ask your doctor what is available.
- Ask about preventive options. If you go through an especially bad period of migraines, your doctor may want to try medications or other treatments designed to keep migraines at bay before they happen.