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How can smoke cause headaches?

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There are several ways that smoking is linked to headaches:

  • Nicotine. It's a chemical in tobacco products. When you smoke, nicotine causes the blood vessels in your body to narrow. This reduces blood flow to your brain, which can trigger a migraine.
  • When your blood vessels narrow, there's also less blood flow to the layers of tissue that cover your brain, called the meninges. When that happens it can lead to pain in your head and face.
  • Another problem with nicotine: It can make it harder for you to get rid of your headache once it starts. That's because the chemical affects your liver's ability to break down headache medicine. The result is that the medication you're counting on to give you pain relief won't work as well, just when you need it the most.
  • Carbon monoxide. Like a lot of people, you may think of it as something that comes out of your car's tailpipe or leaks out of your furnace. But carbon monoxide is also in tobacco products. If you're a smoker, you may have high levels in your blood and brain. Carbon monoxide can trigger headaches.
  • Sensitivity to smells. For some people, the smell that smoking gives off is enough to cause a headache or migraine. You can also have an allergy to cigarette smoke, which can trigger a headache when you're around it.

Cleveland Clinic: "Smoking and Headache."

American Cancer Society: "Health Risks of Secondhand Smoke."

National Institute on Drug Abuse: "Cigarettes and Other Tobacco Products."

PubMed Health: "Meningitis."

Michigan Headache & Neurological Institute: "Smoking Cessation."

Mount Sinai Hospital: "Headache Triggers and Tips."

Mayo Clinic: "Cluster Headache."

The Migraine Trust: "Cluster Headache."

National Cancer Institute: "How To Handle Withdrawal Symptoms and Triggers When You Decide To Quit Smoking."

Reviewed by Nayana Ambardekar on April 2, 2019

Cleveland Clinic: "Smoking and Headache."

American Cancer Society: "Health Risks of Secondhand Smoke."

National Institute on Drug Abuse: "Cigarettes and Other Tobacco Products."

PubMed Health: "Meningitis."

Michigan Headache & Neurological Institute: "Smoking Cessation."

Mount Sinai Hospital: "Headache Triggers and Tips."

Mayo Clinic: "Cluster Headache."

The Migraine Trust: "Cluster Headache."

National Cancer Institute: "How To Handle Withdrawal Symptoms and Triggers When You Decide To Quit Smoking."

Reviewed by Nayana Ambardekar on April 2, 2019

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What relaxation techniques are used to treat headaches?

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