Migraine Headache? Rain Must Be in the Forecast

7 tips for prevention and relief

Does the weather report sometimes have you worried that you’ll develop a pounding migraine? Whether it’s an approaching thunderstorm or a bright sunny day — both can wreak havoc on your head.

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“It’s usually a fall in barometric pressure associated with headaches, but for many people it doesn’t matter; it could be a quick rise in temperature as well. For others, headaches seem to be linked to thunderstorms,” says headache specialist Jennifer Kriegler, MD. 

Research shows that changes in barometric pressure can be associated with migraine headache attacks.

Dr. Kriegler says experts aren’t exactly sure why weather changes trigger migraine headaches, but they believe that a fall in barometric pressure may force fluid into tissues and cause a disruption in fluid balance.

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7 tips to ward off migraine headaches

You can’t control the weather, but you can take steps to minimize your risk — or treat a migraine if it occurs:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. Manage stress. As barometric pressure falls, people who suffer from migraine headaches will often sense it and become stressed, according to Dr. Kriegler. Stress hormones also can provoke a headache. Managing stress through exercise, deep breathing or relaxation techniques will help ward it off.
  5. Increase your magnesium. For some people, increasing magnesium prior to a weather change may help limit or prevent a migraine too. Try eating more dark leafy greens, fish, soybeans, avocado and bananas, which are good natural sources of magnesium.
  6. Drink more water. Fluid shifts in blood vessels surrounding the brain can cause a headache so it’s important to stay hydrated. “Drink lots of water, pretreat by drinking water before you go outside,” says Dr. Kriegler. “On a hot 90 degree humid day you can lose up to a liter of fluid an hour, so you really have to maintain your fluid balance.” 
  7. Wear sunglasses. Besides storms, Dr. Kriegler says bright light and glare from a sunny day or light flickering through trees while someone is driving can also trigger a migraine headache.

If you seem prone to migraine headaches or they are disrupting your life, be sure to talk to your doctor. He or she will work with you to identify triggers as well as the best treatments.