Many of us know that stress, lack of sleep, diet and even exercise can trigger headaches, but did you know that the weather can also cause them?
Some research studies have shown that the rise in temperature and humidity increases the risk of headaches and migraines in some people who are prone to these conditions. Everyone’s headache and migraine triggers are different, and weather may play a role for some.
Weather-related triggers of headache and migraine include:
- Sun glare
- High humidity
- Bright light
- Sudden dips in barometric pressure
Weather conditions can also cause changes in your serotonin levels. These hormonal fluctuations are a common migraine trigger, and can cause a headache too.
Prolonged exposure to high temperatures also puts you at risk for heat exhaustion, one of the stages of heat stroke.
Heat-induced headaches can also be caused by dehydration. When you’re exposed to higher temperatures, your body needs more water to make up for what’s being lost as your body sweats. So, it is important to drink extra water as temperatures start to rise.
If heat tends to trigger your headache or migraine, you can be proactive about prevention:
- Limit your time outside on hot days.
- Protect your eyes with sunglasses and a hat with a brim when you venture out.
- Exercise indoors in an air-conditioned environment if possible.
- Avoid foods that can trigger your headache or migraine. Aged cheese, alcohol, chocolate, citrus fruits and coffee are among the most commonly reported food triggers.
Ice cream headaches are no myth – you really can get them from eating ice-cream or other frosty items, such as ice pops and frozen slushy drinks. This intense cold causes blood vessel spasms to prevent the loss of body heat, which then relax again to let blood flow rise, resulting in a burst of pain.
Officially known as cold stimulus headaches, they can also occur when you suddenly expose your unprotected head to cold temperatures, such as by diving into cold water.
The good news is that most ice cream headaches are gone as quickly as they develop.
If you already have a headache, consider home remedies like:
- Lavender or peppermint essential oils
- Cold compresses, made by filling a waterproof bag with ice and wrapping it in a soft towel. Apply the compress to the back of the neck, head or temples.
- Over-the-counter (OTC) Aspirin, Acetaminophen (Paracetamol) and Ibuprofen can also be used as needed for pain relief. Wise use of pain-killers is important to avoid medication–related problems.
Killing the Pain
If you will face your headache head-on with pain-killers, then take into consideration the below:
- Do not exceed the recommended dosages for faster headache relief!
- Limit the dose of Acetaminophen (Paracetamol) to no more than 4 g/day to avoid possible liver damage. Totally avoid it if you have liver failure.
- Restrict the use of OTC pain killers to treat headaches to 3 days per week to avoid medication overuse headaches.
- To avoid stomach upset, take aspirin or other non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medication with food or milk.
- Do NOT take Aspirin if you are allergic to salicylates or have asthma or nasal polyps; take Acetaminophen (Paracetamol), if appropriate.
- Patients who are pregnant, breast-feeding, or taking any other medications (especially blood-thinners) or have a pre-existing medical condition should be encouraged to consult their primary healthcare provider prior to self-medicating headaches.
- Do NOT take Aspirin or other non-steroidal anti-inflammatories if there is a history of stomach disorders, ulcers, liver or kidney disease, stroke or heart failure unless under the supervision of a physician.