Headache, Headache Go Away. Come Again Some Other Day!
By: MaryAnn Mays, MD • Posted on June 06, 2012
By MaryAnn Mays, MD
During rainy seasons, I receive many calls from patients having difficulty controlling their headaches. It reminds me of when I was a child and would sing “rain, rain go away, come again some other day!” in order to get outside and play again. For migraine sufferers the pain experienced causes them much disability and their activities are limited until the headache goes away. For some people, this actually is when the rain goes away.
Three out of four migraine sufferers think that changes in the weather trigger their headaches. This is probably an overestimation, and the chance that weather is a trigger is more likely to be closer to 50%. The most common weather triggers include:
- Changes in temperature
- Changes in humidity
- Stormy or windy weather
- Extreme, dry conditions
- Bright, sunny days
- Barometric pressure changes
The change of seasons in the spring and fall and fluctuating weather patterns tend to be particular bothersome times for migraine sufferers, but this varies depending on what part of the country you live in. Migraine sufferers who note their headaches occur with seasonal changes may inappropriately attribute them to allergies when in fact it is the changing weather that is the actual trigger. Studies have shown that headache patients are more likely to see emergency room treatment during warmer weather or when there is a drop in barometric pressure.
“If You Don’t Like the Weather, Wait It Will Change”
While I lived in Milwaukee, the meteorologist’s slogan would remind us that you often cannot predict the weather. For those migraine sufferers vulnerable to weather changes, it makes it difficult to plan activities for fear of developing a headache.
My patients pointed out to me that AccuWeather.com and weather.com have forecasts for headaches based upon current weather conditions for your city. I cannot vouch for the accuracy of these tools but found them intriguing. AccuWeather’s headache forecast utilizes current weather conditions with how the weather is changing to predict the probability of experiencing a migraine headache as well as how intense it is likely to be and how long it will last. Weather.com has an Aches and Pains Index for people with chronic health conditions such as migraines, which calculates the headache risk using the following:
- Barometric pressure
- Absolute humidity
- Chance of precipitation
- Wind changes
There are even smartphone apps that can be downloaded for convenient tracking. These may be useful tools for headache suffers to use to track their headaches and plan activities - that is if the meteorologist is right!
Don’t Call the Moving Truck Just Yet
Unless weather changes are your only migraine trigger, it is unlikely that moving to an area that has pleasant uniform weather all year long is likely to be the cure for your migraines. The fact of the matter is that all cities experience weather changes that may precipitate headaches. The better solution would be to speak with your physician about using a daily medication to prevent or decrease the frequency of your headaches and to use a migraine specific medication at the first sign of headache triggered by the weather.