Whenever I see a discussion about Migraine triggers, one of the triggers nearly always mentioned is changes in weather. This applies to both adults and children.
This trigger can lead people to think they’re having sinus headaches instead of recognizing them as Migraines.
Symptoms that lead them to think they’re having sinus headaches include nasal congestion, pressure or pain in the forehead or below the eyes, and red and puffy eyes. All of these can be Migraine symptoms resulting from inflammation of the trigeminal nerve, which occurs during a Migraine.
One study showed that 90% of people who self-diagnose themselves with sinus headaches are actually having Migraines. Sadly, the study also showed that many people are misdiagnosed with sinus headaches. Of the 100 participants in the study, all of them had seen more than four doctors and had gone an average of 25 years before receiving the correct diagnosis or significant relief..3
A study by Bigal et al. revealed that half of Migraineurs are sensitive to weather variables. They stated:
“Most people in the study thought they could predict which type of weather factor (temperature, snow, etc.) triggered their Migraines…
Ironically, we found the one constant in weather-triggered Migraines was change. For instance, even though the heat, high humidity or a storm can cause the headaches in some people, it’s usually the change in temperature, humidity or barometric pressure that brings Migraines on in most sufferers.” 1
A study by Connelly et al., looked at fluctuations in weather as triggers in children, ages eight to 17. The weather variables investigated in this study included:
dew point temperature,
The variables that were significantly predictive of a Migraine occurring were increased relative humidity and precipitation.
A statement by Bigal et al. spoke to change as a trigger:
“We’re realizing more and more that change – or fluctuation – is a major factor in Migraine triggers, whether it’s a change in sleep patterns, estrogen levels or weather… That’s because the brains of Migraine sufferers are extremely sensitive and stimulation that has no affect on most people can trigger Migraines in those prone to them.” 1
Can Migraines triggered by weather changes be prevented or avoided?
Many people think that Migraines triggered by weather changes cannot be avoided or prevented. This isn’t necessarily accurate. Many Migraineurs (I’m included in this group.) have discovered that once they find preventives that are effective in preventing Migraines brought on by other triggers, they also have fewer Migraines from changes in weather.
Others have found that they can avoid these Migraines by taking an extra dose of one of their preventives when they know weather changes are coming or by adding Diamox as a preventive to be taken only when weather changes are coming. Still others have found that if they take a dose of their regular abortive medication when weather changes are coming, they can avoid a Migraine. For these Migraineurs, being aware of the weather forecast is vital.
If you experience Migraines triggered by changes in weather, it’s well worth talking with your doctor about options to prevent these Migraines. Not everyone will be successful in this quest, but many people will be.
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1 Bigal, Marcel, MD; Prince, P.B., MD. Rapoport, A.M., MD; Sheftell, F.D., MD; Tepper, S.J., MD. “Migraines Often Triggered By Change In the Weather.” Platform Presentation, 46th Annual Scientific Meeting of the American Headache Society. 2004. 2 Connelly, Mark, PhD; Miller, Todd, BA; Gerry, Gerry, MD; Bickel, Jennifer, MD. "Electronic Momentary Assessment of Weather Changes as a Trigger of Headache in Children." Headache, 2009. Published online in advance. doi: 10.1111/j.1526-4610.2009.01586.x. 3 Eross, Eric; Dodick, D.W.; Gladstone, J.P. Platform Presentation. 46th Annual Scientific Meeting of the American Headache Society (AHS). June, 2004.