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Headache Triggers and Smoking

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%.

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The symptoms of migraines include: A brief period of depression, irritability, anxiety, moodiness, and decreased appetite as much as 24 hours before the onset of a headache Symptoms of an aura an hour or less before head pain starts A severe, throbbing headache, sometimes concentrated on only one side of the head or around one eye lasting between four and 72 hours A headache that worsens with exertion Nausea and vomiting Extreme sensitivity to light, so painful to the eyes an...

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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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