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Environmental migraine triggers

  • By dawn

    Hello, I use to get migraines all the time and now they seem to be coming back. This time I think the cause is the winter storm that just hit, I’ve been in bed all day, I have taken Imitrex and still have the migraine, I don’t know what else to do, it’s killing me just to sit here and type this.

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  • By Ellen Schnakenberg

    Hello Dawn,

    Has your doctor suggested any other medicines such as an NSAID or Benadryl to combine with the Imitrex for better results? I do hope you are able to shake this attack very very soon. Let us know how you are doing okay?

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  • By Barbie

    Imitrex didn’t work for me, switched to Amitriptyline, which worked well, until I had to go off for cardiac change reasons. Maxalt seems to work well, along with Depakote which covers me for sleep problems as well as migraine management. The cluster headaches hit me for a week when the weather does it’s thing.

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  • By Ellen Schnakenberg

    Weather is one of those awful triggers that makes us feel helpless sometimes because we can’t control them no matter how hard we try. I used a health/weather subscription service that utilized weather conditions and a special algorythm and sent email warnings when certain conditions may be aggravated by the weather. At first I was dismayed to find that every time it said my Migraine attacks may worsen, they didn’t. Because I have some heart issues as well, I also subscribed to that service, and soon found that when it said my cardiac issues may be worsened by the weather, it was my Migraine issues that responded instead. Who knew!

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  • By elyssa

    What can be done to avoid a weather-change triggered migraine? Anytime the barometric pressure falls below 30.25, a migraine hits me with a vengeance and so far I’ve found nothing that helps except going to bed and trying to sleep to wait it out. This is beginning to affect my family, work and social life. I need REAL help, now!! My doctor just keeps trying to prescribe antibiotics for a sinus infection.

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  • By Ellen Schnakenberg

    Elyssa, Can you get in to see a Headache Specialist? They really are the best option for those with Migraines that are affecting their lives like they seem to be affecting yours. It may be that having a discussion with a headache specialist about beginning preventive therapy may be an option for you.

    As to prescriptions for antibiotics, that can be hard on your system if you don’t really need them. That is a common complaint amongst Migraineurs though. If you can get a specialist that understands what is happening, you’ll have better luck with management…

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  • By bonkersbgood

    My migraines are triggered by barometric pressure changes–either up or down. Seems to be the rapidness of the change.
    Every time I have a migraine there is a barometric change going on–BUT NOT every time there is a barometric change I get a migraine. HOpe that makes sense. I did a migraine diary once. Helped tremedously. Found a pattern to “setting the stage” for a migraine in the fact of food colorings and dyes, gasoline fumes, bright sharp light, reflective light and so on.

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  • By heatherwestall-puente

    Good Morning,
    My name is Heather Puente and I too suffer from Migraines. I was diagnosed as having them in 2006. I have started to really pay attention to what triggers them and using a journal. I could really use some opinions or any information you might have on the effect of elevation on a patient with Migraines. I live at an elevation of 6,035-7,000. I never had Migraines till I moved to Colorado in 2002. At first I would get maybe a few a year but no biggee. In 2004 they were coming on more frequently and I had other health issues. I had a complete hysterectomy in that same year. In 2005 we moved to California for two years. My migraines got better however the last year we were there I suffered with them terribly. Found a great Neuro and he got me started on meds and they worked!!! Well Oct 2007 we moved back to Colorado and the pain was back and with a force. So my question is, could this be a very good possiblity that elevation is a main factor in my migraines? I know barometric pressure changes does effect me which, I finally put that together. Colorado weather is known for the changes so rapidly. One day can be 70 degrees and the next day we have a snow storm in the 30’s.

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  • By Teri Robert

    Heather,
    If you haven’t already, this is definitely something to discuss with your doctor. Altitude and weather changes can both be strong triggers. Often, people who have one of those triggers have both. One theory is that both higher altitude and barometric pressure changes affect cerebrospinal fluid pressure. Take a look at this article – https://migraine.com/blog/living-with-migraine/migraine-triggers-weather-changes/

    Teri

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  • By kjdrey

    Can anyone recommend a website that provides barometric pressure and other weather info useful for tracking/predicting migraine attacks? Thanks!

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  • By Ellen Schnakenberg

    KJDREY, I use MediClim myself. However, that said – I rarely have a Migraine when I get a Migraine alert. My attacks usually coincide with the Heart alerts. Not sure why, but I do use them to kind of keep me at least thinking about weather issues that might be headed our way. I hope this is helpful 🙂 Here is a link: http://bit.ly/vr15xT

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  • By diloretta

    Some of my worst migraines come from weather coming from the wrong direction, such as Atlantic hurricanes I easily feel them 800 miles away and nor’easter winter storms coming up the coast.

    My migraines tend to not be so much related to the barometric pressure of where I am, but rather a change somewhere within 800 miles or so.

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  • By Carolyn

    I’ve been doing research on barometric pressure changes because they seem to give me A LOT of trouble. It’s disheartening that there seems to be nothing I can do to avoid them.

    I saw a post above asking about a NSAID medication in combination with imitrex.

    My doctor recently gave me Cambia samples and they worked very well in combination with my imitrex. BUT – turns out they are $111 a pop (with my insurance).

    Can anyone recommend another NSAID, hopefully a generic that will also do the trick?

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  • By danlevesque

    I live in Sudbury, Ontario, Canada. We pretty much are in a mountain bowl.

    Low fast moving clouds put tremendous pressure in the air. Those days I am unable to stop the onset. Am paralyzed from the pain, pulling my hair and literally in tears. I end up in a panic so much that I eat, twist my neck, walk and pace on spot.

    The after storm sunny day has to be one of the worse. The pressure seems to change again and quite fast.

    These are almost as bad as a rebound migraine, almost.

    When a migraine’s onset wakes me in the early hours of the morning (2-3am), and I am unable to wake myself to take something, I am done for the entire day. If I am able to catch it in time, I pretty much need to overdose to kill it.

    Barometric pressure is the definite cause for the migraines I suffer.

    Dan

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  • By Ellen Schnakenberg

    danlevesque – The details of your post has me wondering a couple of things…

    Are you seeing a headache specialist, and did he/she formally diagnose you with Migraine?

    Have you been evaluated for Cluster Headache?

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  • By mindzfuleez217

    Barometric Pressure and Weather Changes are a direct contributing factor to the manifestation of and or inducing effects of my migraines. keeping a record of the weather and symptoms helps me to realize that during those times, being highly sensitive to the environment has to be monitored and regulated.

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  • By Ellen Schnakenberg

    mindzfuleez217 – can you tell us some of the things you have utilized to regulate your environment? That might be super helpful to other patients to see what you have done!

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  • By T Jay

    The 2 major causes of my migraines are barometric pressure changes and bright lights. The weather changes there isn’t much I can do about. The lights are what make me mad. I work in a store, don’t know how long I’m going to be able to continue because of the low ceilings, bright florescent lights, now add to that the huge windows where the sun reflects in and everytime a car pulls up I get flashed. Can’t wear shades cuz I can’t see the computer monitor with them on. It’s horrible. Except for work, I avoid bright lights as much as possible by wearing shades, only using lamps in my house. I can’t be in a room with a ceiling fan with a light on it going. It’s crazy, but I have learned to deal with it…The work thing is very stressful for me right now..everyplace has those lights!

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  • By Bobbilynn

    I’m SO GLAD to have found others dealing with the barometric pressure headaches! With that said, I’m SO SORRY there are others having this same type of pain. It stinks! I can predict the weather 99% of the time and my co-workers and friends think it’s funny. My family understands since they deal with much of the same type of headaches. I get a horrible HA if the barometric pressure falls too quickly, or if the humidity gets thick, the worse my headache is. I usually get the headache a day or two prior to a storm, and once the storm passes (rain/snow), then things improve.

    I’ve been seeing doctors, pain clinics, and migraine specialists that all tell me that the weather does NOT give a person a headache! They tell me that it’s all in my mind that when I see a storm coming, I have conditioned myself to get a headache and that it’s not real; that I can “talk myself out of it”.

    Anyone else go through that?

    I get more weather headaches than I do anything else. I’m so tired of being told that they are not real. Any advice on how anyone else has dealt with this kind of pain? Preventatives have not been effective so far: the triptans are terrible on my body, the amitryptaline gave me worse headaches, the DHE doesn’t touch the pain.

    Please– advice, anyone? What has worked for you? How do you handle the situation? We can’t change the weather trigger, but I’m desperate for help on how to handle it and the pain that comes with it.

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  • By Ellen Schnakenberg

    Bobbilynn – Have you tried Diamox? This is sometimes used for weather related/pressure related headaches and Migraine with success. It is also used for altitude sickness and Intracranial Hypertension as well as people who have Migraine triggered by air travel.

    Weather related triggers are well known within the headache medicine field, which makes me wonder if you are seeing someone who is just calling themselves a *headache specialist* or if they truly have acreditation? You can find a list of accredited physicians here: http://bit.ly/z2PcrG

    If your doctor is listed here and is the one that has told you this, perhaps it is time to find another one that is better equipped to help you.

    Unfortunately, most of us have to endure the type of stigma you speak about here. It’s unfortunate, but sometimes, by being proactive and educated ourselves, we can help educate those physicians who need the help. This makes it a lot easier on the next guy down the road 🙂 Sometimes it just doesn’t happen that way though. When it doesn’t, here is an article you might want to read: http://bit.ly/M7ucRV “Is it time for a new Migraine doctor?”

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  • By mrsj

    I have been sensitive to the barmetric pressure change almost as long as I have had migraines (25 yrs). Over the yrs it has gotten worse. As a teen I went to various drs and everything they tried worked for a few weeks or if I was lucky a few months, then stopped and it was like taking a sugar pill. Now I’m to the point that a big weather change I can feel 5 days in advance. The slightest change in pressure and my head is bugging me to find pain pills or something to lessen the pain. A few friends would call me the walking weather girl, they could look in my eyes and tell I was getting a migraine and a pressure front was moving in.
    I have proven my husband wrong about rain. He goes by the forcast and I go by the pain in my head. If migrainuers can predict rain better then weather people, they should just give us those jobs. We have a built in pressure gauge anyway.

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    • By howesgal

      I am new here…but I, too, can tell when a storm is coming, because it triggers a migraine. My doctor advised I try pseudoephedrine at onset during day hours and benadryl at night, which worked for awhile. I’ve been through a lot of abortive medications and they work until I build up a tolerance for them. My husband still doubts me when the weatherman says no rain and I say it will but I’m right 95% of the time! I love in the Midwest, and my migraines are worse when it’s humid out. So the environment it’s my biggest trigger by far: whether it be perfume, barometric pressure, chimney smoke, or sometimes food smells.

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    • By Tim Banish

      Welcome howesgal, I’m in the Midwest too, and have some of the same triggers you do. Weather (high humidity, rain or a big sudden change), perfumes and diesel exhaust are my worst. After dealing with these migraines for over 25 years and trying every preventative medicine made I find the same issue, either I build up a tolerance or the side effects are so bad I don’t want to take the med.
      About ten years ago I told my doc “No more trials of preventative meds” None made much of a difference anyway, I still had the same number of migraines. That’s when I began to use Imitrex injectable. Yes it’s a shot but you build up a tolerance to that too. (got one spot on my left arm that’s numb now) It stings for a few seconds but then in 10-15 minutes the migraine is gone.
      However my doctor just started me on Magnesium, one tab daily. It’s only been a week but I have not had a migraine all week. (knock on wood) I have no side effects from it, and it’s inexpensive. I guess time will tell if it works or my tolerance level builds up and diminishes the effect.

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    • By howesgal

      Hi! The Imitrex shot worked somewhat, made me feel a bit weird. I recently tried Botox, but after changing insurance I’m having trouble getting the second round approved. I’ve never heard of taking magnesium though, I’ll try that! Thank you!!

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  • By Anonymous

    I developed migraines 20 years ago when we moved from the Chicago suburbs to the desert valley of Phoenix. I never once had a migraine prior to the move and there is no family history. The migraines started almost immediately after moving and are now chronic, near daily, and refractory. I make sure I do not develop rebound headaches. I’ve been seen all these years by a highly esteemed migraine specialist. My question is not about my treatment, but regarding where I live.

    Although there were tons of weather changes in Chicago, I never once had a migraine. The weather in the desert here often stagnates over the valley, and I wonder if something in this area (valley location, low elevation) or the environment (dry, vegetation, anything) could have at least caused the migraines. Summers (high heat) are the worst here for my migraines, but they’re chronic, near daily, every season.

    We have rarely traveled these 20 years due to the chronic migraines, and when we have, only for 2-4 days to the ocean or mountains. Perhaps the coast of southern California or clear mountain air (once elevation change stabilized) was the best, but the trips too short to tell. I have not been back to Chicago and my husband wouldn’t return there.

    My disease has become so disabling despite extensive treatments that I would be agreeable to temporarily living in a different part of the country to see if they improved. This decision would not be easy, esp. financially. There is no family in Chicago or outside this area where I could stay. How long would I need to stay in a new location to see if my migraines improved?

    My migraine specialist has tried everything from A-Z the past 20 years, including alternative and complementary therapy, continues to do so, and absolutely nothing has helped. I’ve also had second opinions, which only mimic the ideas already pursued by my migraine specialist. I’m not giving up, of course, but interested in your opinions regarding the timing of my migraines to our move to this area.

    Any thoughts on whether a trial move (for me) would help, and if it might, how long a stay? I would also have no support during any trial move, but I’m looking at ALL possibilities and this one has always stood out, whether it be weather or environmentally related.

    If this question is best posted elsewhere, I would appreciate the moderators letting me know. Thank you all.

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  • By Ellen Schnakenberg

    I see a couple of things to consider here.

    First, if you are not willing to permenantly relocate, a temporary relocation might help you identify whether the weather is actually a trigger for you, but you will have to deal with the results if you get better elsewhere… Or not. How long that might take is impossible to tell, since we don’t know what your environmental trigger actually is, and it will have to be absent wherever you stay for at least a few days, provided you have not developed any other triggers in addition to the weather or environment that you are as yet unaware. Since triggers are cumulative, it could take some time to find them… Or merely days.

    Second, I am wondering what testing you have had to attempt to figure out triggers and or comorbidities? For example, in the presence of new Migraine that is intractable and chronic where there was no problem before AND no family history, it is prudent to make sure it is true Migraine and not just Migraine like symptoms. There are over 300 different headache disorders, and Migraine is essentially a diagnosis of exclusion… We know it is Migraine because we know it cannot be anything else as we have tested for everything else. One that comes to mind is a spinal tap to rule out intracranial hypertension. Another potential testing that you might want to inquire about is metabolic or hormonal testing. Moving causes stress that may impact your metabolic system, and we know that thyroid and other glandular dysfunction can result in new daily persistent headache and chronification of Migraine.

    We know that Migraine is a genetic neurologic disease, but we do not understand all that we need to know about those genetics. We do know that most Migraine seems to have variable penetrance. This means that you may carry a gene and not ever experience a Migraine attack while your child or grandchild may suffer terribly. Additionally, it is thought that it might take a specific trigger to actually bring the Migraine related DNA “to life” and create a problem.

    We may never know why you are unlucky enough to experience Migraine, but continuing to strive for better treatment and care is, as you know, vital to remaining as healthy as possible and living your best life.

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  • By T

    I have read all of the posts about barometric pressure and I sympathize with all of the posters. While a pressure change is not necessarily a trigger for me it will make a pending migraine attack much worse. What about the other uncontrollable environmental triggers? There are scents that cannot be avoided at the grocery store, in the mall, in elevators, mold in buildings, etc? And how do you deal with flourescents? Thanks to the government regulations they are harder to avoid at home and of course everywhere you go there are flourescent lights. I don’t work near a window at work so I am surrounded by flourescent lights. Thankfully I have a low-flicker monitor. That helps a bit. At home I have natural light whenever possible and when migraine pain threatens black-out curtains work wonders to darken a room, but everywhere else, even in the doctor’s office those flickering flourescents are an everpresent nightmare.

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  • By Anonymous

    There are some really good tips here to help with environmental migraine triggers.

    Allergy season is upon us and my neurologist knows that allergies trigger migraines for me. I can use either Claritin (barely works), Flonase nasal spray (gives me a headache!) or Benadryl at night. Benadryl works fairly well, but it’s only for bedtime. I’ve been on a few trials of cyproheptadine, but even at a small titrating dose, I became exceedingly drowsy due to other medications I must take that are also sedating. I can’t take any products with pseudoephedrine because they cause me to have a panic-like reaction.

    Do any of you use something that works well with seasonal allergies that trigger migraines? I’ll go to an allergist if I must, but I’d like to avoid injections (if even necessary) for a seasonal problem.

    Any ideas? Thanks.

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  • By Ellen Schnakenberg

    dawnsm – Have you had your thyroid thoroughly checked? I ask because that sort of adrenal-type reaction to allergy products often happens when your thyroid is out of whack (as can increased Migraine attacks) and can be a good clue it needs to be checked.

    Montelukast Sodium is really good for allergy problems, and in some people, is helpful for Migraine as well. I used it some years back and found it was helpful for my Migraines. There was nothing to indicate it should be helpful, but I am not one to argue with success. I eventually had to discontinue it, and when I tried it again some months ago, it caused digestive stuff I couldn’t deal with, so it’s not in the mix for me personally anymore. Still, it might be worth trying just in case it is helpful to you. 🙂

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  • By Tim Banish

    Barometric weather changes have always triggered migraines for me. Spring and fall are the worst, and some weeks can have 3-4 migraines if the barometric pressure is changing rapidly. In summer I can sometimes go up to 2 weeks without a miraine.

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  • By Ellen Schnakenberg

    Tim Banish – What area of the country do you live in? As a mid-westerner, I find spring to be killer this year. It’s May 2 and we have snow predicted! I read somewhere that April is considered the worst month for Migraines due to weather changes. I really think that weather varies so much throughout the country that it might be hard to figure out a *best* place to be located during these times.

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  • By Tim Banish

    Ellen- I live in SW Ohio. You are right, April is one of the worst months for migraines due to the changing weather patterns. If there WAS a place that the weather never changed that may be the place to live.

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  • By Ellen Schnakenberg

    Tim Banish – Our beloved Kerrie Smyres lives in Scottsdale, Arizona… a place I thought sure would be the best for a Migraineur. It doesn’t seem to make much difference for her though. *sigh*

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  • By Tim Banish

    Ellen- and I always thought Arizona would be a good place to retire. South in the winter, north in the summer, trying to avoid the climate changes. Guess that thought is out. Sorry to Kerrie!

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  • By Tim Banish

    Ohh this darn weather changing all week has brought on a string of migraines. It has been rainy and muggy to hot and dry. Three mornings in a row waking up with a migraine has drained me. Plus had one in the evening this week which is quite unusual for me, I can usually hold off a daytime/evening migraine before it starts with Aleve if I take it as soon as the pain begins. No luck with that one.
    Since retiring in April my migraines have decreased greatly, which I can only guess is due to decreased exposure to chemicals and perfumes. (and LESS stress) It has been nice to have several days in a row migraine free, until this week.
    Anyone have Mother Natures hotline?

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  • By Nancy Harris Bonk Moderator

    Hi Tim,

    I’m glad to hear you are seeing a reduction in your migraine frequency since you’ve retired. Congrats!

    There are many of us, myself included who would love a hotline for Mother Nature!

    Have you seen any of our information on weather and related triggers? If not here you go: https://migraine.com/blog/how-can-i-manage-other-triggers-such-as-stress-and-environmental-changes/ and https://migraine.com/blog/migraine-triggers-the-power-of-weather/.

    Hang in there!

    Nancy

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  • By Tim Banish

    Thanks Nancy-

    Yes I’ve been all over this site reading information and learning. As much as I’ve had migraines for 25+ years there is always more to learn, and Migraine.com is one of the best I’ve ever found.
    I know there is nothing we can do about the weather changes but live (or suffer) with them. This summer has just been crazy, from cool to hot, then the storms.

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  • By Vicki

    I am SO miserable right now! Spring and Fall tend to hit me harder, as well as the heat of the summer. I’ve been averaging at least one migraine every other day in the past few weeks. I’ve started charting the barometric pressure by 4 hour increments, but I realized that not knowing what to compare it to, doesn’t really do me any good. And I don’t know how a “sharp decline” in pressure is defined.

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  • By Vicki

    I have just found a website that gives DETAILED weather history!!! Barometric pressure!! You can go back as far as you want…..and daily or weekly or monthly. Weatherunderground.com > Weather > Airport Weather History. Yea!!!

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  • By Vicki

    Thanks Nancy, I hadn’t seen that article. The info on horses was fascinating….I had grown up with horses, but we didn’t breed, although, the one colt we did have was named Stormy! lol

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  • By Rhonda H.

    Any change in pressure bothers me. Changing of the seasons, storms (hail is the worst which causes blackouts), and even airplanes (last flight I took caused pain so bad I lost a week of memories).

    Prescriptions don’t seem to work much better than changes in my diet alongside Aleve for the pain. I just take it easy on days I know will bother me.

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