Can weather changes trigger migraines?

Answers from Jerry W. Swanson, M.D.

Some people who have migraines appear to be more sensitive to changes in the weather. Weather-related triggers include:

  • Bright sunlight
  • Extreme heat or cold
  • Sun glare
  • High humidity
  • Dry air
  • Windy or stormy weather
  • Barometric pressure changes

For some people, weather changes may cause imbalances in brain chemicals, including serotonin, which can prompt a migraine. Weather-related triggers also may worsen a headache caused by other triggers.

If you feel your migraines are triggered by weather, you may be understandably frustrated. After all, you can't change the weather. However, you can learn which weather changes start a migraine and take steps to lessen their effects by:

  • Keeping a headache diary, listing each migraine, when it happened, how long it lasted and what could have caused it. This can help you determine if you have specific weather triggers.
  • Monitoring weather changes and avoiding triggers if at all possible. For example, stay indoors during very cold or windy weather if these factors appear to trigger your migraines.
  • Taking your migraine medication at the first sign of a migraine.
  • Making healthy lifestyle choices — eat healthy foods, exercise regularly, drink enough water, get enough sleep and keep your stress under control. These factors can help reduce the number and severity of your migraines.
March 21, 2015 See more Expert Answers