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Woman with migraine holding a warming drink in the onset of a cold winter

How Weather Changes Affect My Migraine

Reading time | 2 mins

“Dani, did you hear that it’s going to be 20 degrees warmer tomorrow? I’m so excited!”

Whenever I hear statements like this, I cringe. Why? Because for me, a significant change in the weather often indicates the potential for intensified migraine symptoms. 

When rain showers or a change in temperature is on its way, I can usually sense it. I often feel a pressure shift in my head. Sometimes, this even happens a day in advance. Then, when the weather drops or increases 10 to 15 degrees, I worry that this will trigger a new migraine attack.

My battle against weather change is real and debilitating. Here’s more on the connection between migraine and pressure changes, and how I manage this in my own life.

We’re not alone

While everyone is affected by migraine differently, there are some common triggers that overlap. According to the American Migraine Foundation, more than one-third of those who live with chronic migraine say that shifts in the weather often impact their symptoms.

Weather-related triggers can specifically include high or low humidity, unexpected or significant temperature changes, barometric pressure changes, and bright sunlight. So not only do those of us living with migraine have to fight against the pain of migraine attacks, but we are battling against something as uncontrollable as the weather.

Why does this happen?

More research needs to be done to find a clear link between the weather and migraine attacks, and why pressure changes can be a trigger for some people. One potential reason why this happens is because shifts in the weather may cause an imbalance in the brain chemical serotonin, leading to migraine.

Pressure changes can also dilate blood vessels, which causes abnormal blood flow and prompts migraine.

Unfortunately, you can’t avoid the weather

I live in New York and weather shifts are the norm here. As a result, I have accepted weather-related migraines as part of my life.

I’ve tried living in a more consistent, dry climate to see if I saw improvement. During this time, my migraine was slightly better, but the lingering migraine pain was still substantial. I didn’t experience enough relief to justify staying in that location long-term.

Managing migraine during weather shifts

When I sense a shift in the weather or notice grey skies and clouds rolling in, I acknowledge that there’s a chance a migraine may come. After that, I try not to think much about it. It’s out of my control.

If I let myself get upset or frustrated at the situation, it only exacerbates the problem. While difficult, I’ve found that it’s better to accept the situation and move on.

When necessary, I’ll inform those around me that I may be getting a migraine. I’ll warn others that a migraine may impede our plans, so that they have time to plan and adjust accordingly.

When I know a shift is coming, I also drink a lot of water. This is something that I tend to do whenever I feel a migraine creeping in. I always figure that staying adequately hydrated can’t hurt the situation.

Meanwhile, I make sure to eat regular, healthy meals to not give a migraine any more of an opening to strike.

The takeaway

Many of us have to deal with migraine triggers that are out of our control. Finding ways to manage our pain in these circumstances is important. The key is to figure out how to stay positive in the process and make the necessary adjustments for our own needs at that time.

NPS-IE-NP-00129 November 2020