A Temperature Hike Can Trigger Migraines Researchers know that migraine headaches can be triggered by factors like a lack of sleep, certain foods or stress. A new study shows that weather can also trigger severe headaches, with some people suffering migraines when the temperature rises.

A Temperature Hike Can Trigger Migraines

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If you think a change in the weather gives you a headache, you may be right. This is according to researchers in a study published in the journal Neurology. NPR's Patti Neighmond has more.

PATTI NEIGHMOND: Everyone knows there are certain triggers that can set off the terrible throbbing pain of a migraine. Some foods like chocolate or cured meats, alcohol - especially red wine - the smell of potent perfume, stress or lack of sleep, and hormonal changes like those women experience during menstruation. And even though people have long complained that weather too can be a trigger, scientists weren't sure. That's why Harvard internist Kenneth Mukamal decided to look at weather patterns along with seven years of hospital records. In particular, Mukamal checked the cases of over 7,000 patients who came to Beth Israel Deaconess Hospital's ER with severe headaches.

Dr. KENNETH MUKAMAL (Harvard Medical School): And what we saw was that in particular temperature tended to differ. So that it was warmer on the days the people came in than other days of the month.

NEIGHMOND: In fact, for every nine-degree increase in temperature…

Dr. MUKAMAL: The risk of having a severe headache like this increased by seven and a half percent.

NEIGHMOND: Which is a lot, says Mukamal. In fact, temperature made a bigger difference than other aspects of the weather like humidity or the typical culprit, barometric pressure. In Mukamal's study, which is considered the largest and most scientifically sound, barometric pressure was a factor in setting off some painful headaches. But it wasn't as big a deal as temperature. Neurologist Richard Lipton directs the Montefiore Headache Center in New York. Lipton says the study provides solid evidence the changes in temperature along with falling barometric pressure can trigger severe headaches. A big caution, however: everybody's migraine triggers are different.

Dr. RICHARD LIPTON (Montefiore Headache Center): One person may be able to eat chocolate with impunity but get a headache if they drink red wine. Another may be able to drink red wine with impunity but get a headache if they eat chocolate or cured meats. And some people have weather as a trigger, but many people do not.

NEIGHMOND: For people whose migraines are set off by weather changes, Lipton says there are things they can to try to prevent the headache. For one, he says, remember that triggers add up.

Dr. LIPTON: So for example, a woman with menstrual migraine may notice that she can drink red wine most of the month but not on the first couple of days of her period. So people who have weather-related headaches might — when the temperature is changing or the barometric pressure is falling — be careful to make sure they get enough rest, to avoid red wine, to avoid their dietary triggers.

NEIGHMOND: And maybe avoid that throbbing, painful headache. Migraines are no small problem. Experts say about 18 percent of women and six percent of men have migraines. Patti Neighmond, NPR News.

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