Weather shifts are no fun for those with migraine

A recent study established an association between atmospheric pressure and the amount of migraine pain a person experiences.

Jokes and memes about Kentucky weather abound: You can have all four seasons in a day! One day it’s 70 degrees, the next it’s snowing. But for people who get migraines, our weather fluctuations are no laughing matter.

While studies have not found a direct link between weather changes and headache or migraine attacks, the American Migraine Foundation says more than one-third of people who experience migraine claim weather changes have a noticeable impact on their symptoms.

One of the biggest culprits is barometric (also called atmospheric) pressure. A 2017 study established an association between atmospheric pressure and the amount of migraine pain a person experiences.

Dramatic weather swings usually cause changes in barometric pressure. A pressure difference between a person’s environment and the sinus cavities can increase the chance of headache and migraine. This pressure difference can lead to swollen sinuses, especially if the person already has congestion or blockage.

You may have noticed this pressure effect while flying. As a plane changes altitude during takeoff and the approach for landing, the air pressure changes and your ears may pop or you may experience head or ear pain.

Other aspects of weather that may trigger migraine

  • Bright sunlight
  • Extreme heat or cold
  • Sun glare
  • High humidity
  • Dry air
  • Windy or stormy weather

Can you do anything to prevent migraine?

People who experience migraine can learn what triggers their attacks and take steps to avoid them. Unlike common triggers such as alcohol and certain foods, you can’t really avoid weather patterns. So what can you do?

“If a weather pattern is coming in that could trigger a migraine, take good care of yourself: Get extra sleep if you can, stay hydrated and avoid any other migraine triggers,” said Brian M. Plato, D.O., neurologist with the Headache & Concussion Center, a part of Norton Neuroscience Institute. “You also can manage your schedule when the weather may be a problem for you; that way, you can be somewhere safe in case you become too fatigued or your migraine symptoms start.”

Waiting for migraine care?

Use the Wait List option in your MyNortonChart account if you have a future appointment with the Headache & Concussion Center.

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