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Weather as a Headache and Migraine Trigger

How to Cope With Headache and Migraine Triggers

Keeping a headache or migraine diary is the first step toward keeping pain from disrupting your life.

Some people have clear signs that a migraine headache is coming. And they may get these warnings as early as 48 hours before the headache strikes. These early warning signs are called "prodromal," meaning precursory. Possible signs include:

  • Irritability
  • Depression
  • Frequent yawning
  • Feeling especially excitable

If headaches plague you, keep a daily headache diary. That way you can look back a day or two before a headache starts for signs of what may have triggered your headache. Record any irritability or other prodromal signs. Also, if you think weather is a factor, record any of the common weather and environmental triggers listed above. Keep a detailed diary for three months to allow the variable patterns of your headaches to show up.

In your headache diary, write the following:

  • Your headache symptoms: where you feel the pain, what the pain feels like, and any other symptoms, such as vomiting or sensitivity to noise, smells, or bright light
  • The time your headache started and ended
  • Any food and beverages you had (common triggers include chocolate, caffeine, and foods with the preservatives MSG and nitrates)
  • Any changes in the weather, such as storms, high winds, or high humidity
  • Any treatment you tried, and whether it helped or made the headache worse

Some experts believe that people link their headaches to weather more than is actually true. That opinion is based on a 2004 study that analyzed patients' perceived headache patterns with actual National Weather Service data.

But those same experts would agree that headache is still somewhat of a mystery. They also point out that headaches are as individual as they are unpredictable. The only way to know for sure if weather is a factor for you is to find out for yourself. And the only way to do that is with a detailed headache diary. You can't change the weather. But you may be better able to plan around it and keep your headaches at bay.

WebMD Medical Reference

Reviewed by Neil Lava, MD on February 14, 2015
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