Does weather impact migraines?
Reviewed by our clinical team
Migraines are a neurological condition that usually manifest as severe headaches, sensitivity to light and sound, nausea, and vomiting. These symptoms can be debilitating and significantly impact a person’s quality of life. While we don’t really know the exact cause of migraines, there is some anecdotal evidence to suggest that changes in the weather and environment can be a trigger for some individuals.
If you regularly experience migraines brought on by changes in the weather, you might find that you feel very frustrated and like you have no control, worsening the already very unpleasant experience of migraines.
In this article, we’ll explore the relationship between weather changes and migraines, and look at the potential impact of heat, cold, humidity, and other weather conditions on migraine frequency and severity. By understanding the link between migraines and the weather, and the treatment available, you might be able to take steps to reduce your exposure to migraines, even when the weather isn’t on your side.
Can change in weather cause headaches?
Many of those who experience migraines say that changes in the weather are a trigger for them. While the exact mechanisms behind this link aren’t fully understood, it’s thought this could be down to changes in temperature, pressure, and other weather-related factors affecting the brain and nervous system by widening, constricting, or inflaming blood vessels.
Similarly, high heat or humidity levels can cause dehydration, a known trigger for migraines.
There are many different types of migraines, with a range of triggers, and not everyone who experiences migraines will be sensitive to weather. However, for those who do experience weather-related migraines, knowing more can be an important step in managing their condition.
Humidity and migraines
When humidity levels are high, it can cause the body to become dehydrated more quickly, a commonly reported trigger for migraines. In addition, high humidity levels can cause changes in air pressure, potentially leading to changes in head pressure and causing headaches.
Temperature changes and migraines
Temperature changes, both hot and cold, are described as a trigger for migraines by some. People who regularly experience migraines often describe these headaches as a ‘heat migraine’, or ‘cold weather migraine’. When the body is exposed to extreme temperatures, it can cause blood vessels in the head to constrict or dilate, which can lead to head pain.
Storms and migraines
Stormy weather, particularly during the spring and summer months, is regularly described as a trigger for migraines. This is often due to changes in barometric (atmospheric) pressure, which happens during rapid weather changes and storms. Changes in this pressure could contribute to pressure changes in the head and brain, which could in turn trigger head pain.
Dry conditions and migraines
Dry conditions, particularly during the winter months, are also anecdotally reported as a trigger for migraines in some individuals. In addition, dry conditions can irritate the nasal passages, which might also contribute to head discomfort. Dry conditions are also associated with low humidity levels, another head pain trigger.
Some people describe dusty environments as a trigger for their migraines. Dust can contain a variety of substances, such as pollen, mould, and other allergens, that can irritate the nasal passages and cause discomfort and head pain.
Wind and migraines
Windy weather might also be a trigger for migraines in some individuals. Like a lot of migraine triggers, the exact mechanisms behind this link aren’t fully understood, but some believe that changes in air pressure and temperature associated with wind impact the brain and nervous system, triggering migraines.
Weather pressure and migraines
Changes in weather pressure can be a trigger for migraines in some people. When pressure drops or rises rapidly, it can cause changes in the pressure inside the brain, leading to migraine symptoms such as headaches, nausea, and sensitivity to light and sound.
High altitude and migraines
High altitudes can trigger migraines in some people. This is because, at higher altitudes, the air pressure and oxygen levels are lower, impacting the brain and nervous system, and leading to migraine symptoms.
Migraine treatment options
Migraines - whatever the trigger - can seriously impact the lives of those who experience them. That’s why we offer a range of easy-to-access treatment options through Online Doctor, including:
Vydura comes in wafer form and contains the active ingredient rimegepant, which can be used to limit the severity of migraines by reducing the production of CGRP, a pain chemical involved in triggering migraines. Vydura can be used both during migraines and preventatively by those who are prone to them. Vydura is available at Online Doctor, and you can find out more here.
Sumatriptan works by narrowing the blood vessels in the brain and reducing inflammation, helping reduce the impact of migraine symptoms in some people. Sumatriptan is available via Online Doctor in tablet form and can be used in conjunction with other pain relief and anti-sickness medications for the greatest effect. You can also learn more about how sumatriptan works here.
Another type of triptan, like sumatriptan, rizatriptan works by narrowing the blood vessels in the brain and minimising inflammation, helping to relieve migraine symptoms. Rizatriptan is available as a tablet from Online Doctor, and can be used with painkillers such as paracetamol, ibuprofen, and aspirin, as well as anti-sickness medications.
How effective these treatments are will depend on the individual and the severity of their migraines, and they might not be suitable for everyone. It's important to discuss any treatment options with a doctor before starting a new type of medication.
Migraines and the weather
Although we don’t know definitively what causes migraines, we know that there is a strong anecdotal link between migraines and the weather. If you regularly experience migraines, it’s important to be aware of your own personal triggers so you can better predict when you might encounter one.
Migraines can be debilitating, but treatments are available to limit the impact they have on your life. If you’d like to know more, or discuss your condition with an expert, speak to one of our online video GPs today.