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Migraines & Headaches Health Center

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Headache Triggers and Smoking

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Smoking and second-hand smoke from cigarettes, cigars, and pipes can contribute to headaches for both the smoker and the non-smoker. Nicotine, one of the components of tobacco, stimulates the blood vessels in the brain to constrict (narrow). Smoking also stimulates the nerves in the back of the throat, contributing to headache pain.

Usually, by removing the stimulus (nicotine), headaches will be relieved. Quitting smoking or reducing exposure to second-hand smoke is especially helpful for those with cluster headaches. In one study of people with cluster headaches, those who reduced their tobacco use by less than one-half pack of cigarettes per day found their headaches decreased by 50%.

Recommended Related to Migraines/Headaches

Ocular Migraine Prevention

The first step to preventing migraines is to avoid triggers. These often include: Stress Smoking High blood pressure Hormonal birth control pills Exercise Bending over High altitude Dehydration Low blood sugar Excessive heat Although dietary triggers – such as caffeine, alcohol, and artificial sweeteners -- can cause other types of migraines; they seem less likely to trigger ocular migraines. Medications can...

Read the Ocular Migraine Prevention article > >

Allergy to smoke as well as odor sensitivity can also cause migraine headaches in some people. By avoiding situations or places where smoking occurs, headaches may be avoided.

WebMD Medical Reference

Reviewed by David T. Derrer, MD on February 23, 2014
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