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Migraine Triggers: Weather Changes

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.

poll02This 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:

  • temperature,
  • dew point temperature,
  • barometric pressure,
  • humidity,
  • precipitation, and
  • sunlight.

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.

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The Migraine.com team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

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.

Comments

  • Howard Fites
    5 years ago

    I live in an area with very low humidity, near Palm Springs, California. For the last few months I have been using the Cefaly device to mitigate my migraines and I have had great success reducing my days of pain to 4-5 a month. All of my normal triggers seem to be under control, anxiety, food, alcohol but not humidity and weather changes. Summer has been very hot and dry but we get an occasional rapid weather change and will have heat, high humidity and downpours. I instantly get a migraine that will last until the day after the weather changes. I noticed this once before on a cruise to Mexico, I’m fine indoors on the ship, walk outside and it’s like sticking a needle through my head. It’s just weird.

  • Karlostj
    7 years ago

    I never realized that weather changes could cause migraines, until one morning I found myself with a headache that matched what I get due to low blood-sugar – and I *knew* I had eaten enough (I’m Type 1 Diabetic). They don’t happen often (in the past 15 years, only twice due to weather), but they are not curable by over-the-counter medication.

  • cannier
    7 years ago

    Wow. Thanks for this, Teri. The majority of my existence is characterized by head pain. When I was younger and still having periods, I could count on a 1-2 day migraine each month. When my head pain wasn’t due to that, it was due to sinus disease (which I was diagnosed with at age 22, symptoms being chronic inflammation and polyps). It wasn’t until much later that I could also see a connection between my other migraine occurrences and weather changes (barometric pressure, I think).

    You know, my head just seems dead-set on hurting. It’s like it LOOKS for an excuse to cause me pain.

  • Kathleen Jess
    8 years ago

    Every winter I get terrible headaches which I’ve always been told are “sinus headaches”. I’m starting to doubt that diagnosis as no sinus treatments have worked and evidence is mounting that a lot of sinus headaches are misdiagnoses of migraine. I really need to get this sorted out as I struggle to work during winter (I spent most of the past 2 winters off work due to severe headaches and I’ve been on and off at work this winter). The headaches start to dissipate in around October, when the weather gets warmer. My problem is trying to convince doctors to give my migraine theory a chance. Does anyone have any suggestions on what I can do, what types of scans etc. I should get? Thanks!

  • Christine Nordstrom
    8 years ago

    Kathleen, maybe you could print off this article about weather being triggers and take it with you to the doctor? my doctor doesn’t have time to even go into a discussion about my migraines. i told him i use to take fiorecet so he gave that to me but didn’t ask me anything about my migraines. i have no insurance, so it’s the only place i can go but i sure don’t get any kind of good care there. but i just got approved for permanent disability so at least i can sleep for 2 days when i get one and not have to worry about leaving my job stranded. but i do wish i had a doctor that understood migraines, or at least cared. the beginning of summer is the worst for me but i’m finding the beginning of winter is becoming a terror too.

  • Tina Miller
    8 years ago

    I’ve had 3 different headache diagnoses, from cluster, sinus, tension. The hospital finally told me they were migraines, I take over the counter Excedrin as soon as I start seeing flashes or smelling things that aren’t there. Unfortunately when the heat wave broke & the rain came in, I got no warning & didn’t even think about it till it was too late.

  • Charry Black McDonald Jones
    8 years ago

    One of my triggers also can be related to weather and I too have been misdiagnosed in the past. I take Topamax every morning and night. Imitrex can help sometimes but not all – I have decided that migraines are something I will have to just learn to live with.

  • Ellen Brown
    8 years ago

    I have had migraines for over 30 years and tried EVERY medication ever suggested and nothing has ever worked. After many years of watching diet, sleep, hormones and all other triggers, I found that the weather is a huge factor. My headaches have become a DAILY issue and I have found no relief.

  • Timothy Roberts
    8 years ago

    Im sorry im being a dork,I know the weather has alot to do with it specialy the high pressure and moisture.you probably need one of those chambers…..a little bit exspensive.

  • Timothy Roberts
    8 years ago

    Tell Jerry,to try a big drill bit in the center of the forehead,then pour salt in the hole.then let the dog lick it!that should fix everything and then Ill bill you later ok?

  • Ryan Chase
    8 years ago

    Drowsiness and/or tissue pain on the onset of rapid barometric pressure drops is a sign of immune related inflammation of membranes mediating gas transport.
    Inflammation isolates tissue by cell swelling on the protien tissue skeleton.
    I recommend food sensitive elimination diets. Read food labels and stop eating that stuff.

  • Jessica Madore
    8 years ago

    I want to know what state is the best to live in if you’re migraines are weather related. I live in Florida right now and it’s brutal between the daily rain storms and the humidity!

  • Nicole Gorno
    8 years ago

    I have not heard of Diamox. What is this medication? I’m so glad I found this information. Thank you.

  • Nicole Gorno
    8 years ago

    Thank you. I will have to ask my neurologist. I noticed seizures are a possible side effect. And I do have a seizure disorder. So thanks for the link and I will clear it with him.

  • Migraine.com
    8 years ago

    Hi Nicole, You can read more about Diamox here: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmedhealth/PMH0000766/

  • Halfway Gone
    8 years ago

    I tell people that my body is a barometric pressure gauge… Weather is a major trigger for long-term Fibro & migraines. Particularly, Humidity & Lightning/Thunder. I get a vice grip sensation at the back of my head, right before the storm hits & as it’s passing over. Once it’s passed, the vice grip lets up… I also feel “electrical.” And, if there’s a severe storm coming, sometimes I can feel it for days before.

  • Elaine Gross
    8 years ago

    I can’t tell you how many years I’ve had these symptoms and episodes and have been diagnosed with sinus infections and was prescribed antibiotics to no avail. Even now I often get a sore throat in the beginning of a migraine, along with the puffy red eyes. I just hope that those years of taking antibiotics haven’t caused negative affects.

  • Lesley Freed
    8 years ago

    I have had similar experiences.

  • Teri-Robert author
    8 years ago

    Jess,
    Thanks, and you’re welcome! I used to think I had both Migraines and sinus headaches until my Migraine specialist set me straight. They’re all Migraines, and they respond to my Migraine medications.
    Teri

  • Bonnie Krisanda
    8 years ago

    I am one of those whose migraines can be triggered by the weather. I take my migraine preventative every day like clockwork and it does not stop my migraines during weather changes. When the weather changing is the cause nothing touches my migraine. Not the preventative, not the Imitrex. The only thing that slows it down is cool, dark room where there is no noise. And that only eases it up a bit. I take Verapimil as a preventative and it lowers my already low blood pressure. So I do not know which is the lesser of the two evils at this point. Is there something better that I can take as a preventative.

  • Laura Bagley Asher
    8 years ago

    Have you tried toradol and phenergen IM injections? You have to have someone drive you, but I can’t drive with a migraine anyhow. I’ve gotten them at my doctor’s office, immediate care and the ER. Since it helps with the pain and the nausea and is not a narcotic you don’t have to argue or beg to get help. It helps me because I “guard” when I’m in pain and the muscles in my neck and back get even more stiff and knotted. The injection can help calm this down. I do end up sleeping for a day or two. I don’t like losing time but it’s better than the piercing pain of the migraine HA.

  • Bonnie Krisanda
    8 years ago

    I have been there also Jodi I know what you mean. But with all my medication allergies Imitrex is about the only one i can take that has any effect at all

  • Jodi Marie
    8 years ago

    🙁 I get bad migranes like that too aunt bonnie…imitrex doesn’t work at all…sometimes I even have to get iv meds at the er. hope u feel better!

  • Jess
    8 years ago

    For years I thought that I was suffering from sinus headaches along with my migraines. Now I’m seriously questioning that, seeing as it was mainly a self-diagnosis. Good info, thank you!

  • Abi Addison
    8 years ago

    Such a great bit of info about most sinus headaches really being migraines!

  • Rochelle RoRo Brown
    8 years ago

    I now know when its too hot outside my migraines start. I am on top of them right now cause as soon as I feel one coming on I take Treximet and I am good for the rest of the day. June was the worst month ever for me in all the years I have been getting migraines In my journal I counted a total of 7 to 10 headaches and that is not good. I signed up for the Treximet website and I get a coupon for my perscription and my fee is zero for my co pay I have them wondering where do you get these from lol. Its good cause my co pay is 35 bucks and the coupon wipes that out.

  • Jaime Kate Johnson ⊰⊱
    8 years ago

    I find the barometric pressure is a HUGE trigger for my migraines and that may be related to my PFO and blood pressure problems as a result but I have to keep a very careful eye on the weather forecasts and treat my migraines before they set off the bad symptoms. Glad you’re showing the research for this phenomenon!

  • Rebecca Smith
    8 years ago

    I actually have the same thing……..our bodies dont handle going from one to the other very well, this is the worst time of year for it and a terrible area of the country for it. I find fall going into winteris the easiest time for my migraines

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