Seasonal Migraine

Reviewed by: HU Medical Review Board | Last reviewed: October 2020

Seasonal changes impact the human body in many different ways. There are people who suffer from seasonal affective disorder (SAD), a form of depression that strikes during winter. Others have allergies only in the spring or fall. There are also people who have migraine attacks only during certain seasons or weather patterns.

Weather triggered migraine

“Seasonal migraine” is not an official term used by the International Headache Society, but it is a common way some people describe their attacks. Weather-related migraine triggers include:1,2

  • Bright sun or glare
  • Very hot or very cold temperatures
  • Sudden changes in temperature
  • Very high or very low humidity
  • Wind
  • Thunderstorms

Migraine attacks may also be triggered by holiday stress or lack of sleep caused by seasonal activities.3

What causes seasonal migraine?

Some people are sensitive to changes in barometric or atmospheric pressure. Barometric pressure is the force air places on the surfaces around it. This pressure changes as weather moves in and out of an area, such as when it shifts from sun to rain.

Changing barometric pressure changes the pressure in our sinuses, which are air pockets in the head. Weather changes also lead to changes in brain chemicals like serotonin, which can trigger a migraine.

Other people develop a migraine when temperatures change, especially if the change is dramatic, such as when a thunderstorm drops outside temperatures by 20 degrees.

Springtime can be a problem for people with migraine, especially if they also have allergies. Summer, with its bright sunshine and heat, creates a greater chance for dehydration, which is a trigger for some people with migraine.

Changes in the amount of daylight, either the longer days of summer or shorter days of winter, can disrupt sleep patterns. Lack of sleep or too much sleep are common migraine triggers.

Diagnosing and treating seasonal migraine

Understanding your seasonal migraine triggers will help you and your doctor better manage your migraines. A migraine diary can help you track what triggers your attacks, along with your diet, exercise, and sleep habits. All of this information can help your doctor recommend ways to avoid as many migraine triggers as possible.1

Some seasonal changes can be avoided and others cannot. For example, you can stay indoors on very cold, dry winter days, or avoid bright light in summer. However, you probably cannot avoid a storm that is moving through your area.

If a seasonal migraine starts, you should take an acute migraine drug as soon as possible and your preventive medicine as prescribed.2

The link between seasonal allergies and migraine

Many studies have found that migraine is more common in people who have hay fever and asthma. In fact, about 1 in 3 people with migraine also have hay fever. People who have both migraine and hay fever or asthma also tend to have migraines more often and are more likely to develop chronic migraine.4

If you have seasonal allergies, you should take allergy medicine as directed by your doctor and drink plenty of water to avoid triggering a migraine.

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