Seasonal migraine: Triggers and causes

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A migraine headache causes an intense pulsing or throbbing pain. Various factors can trigger migraine episodes, including the changes that occur as the seasons shift.

Different seasons bring a variety of environmental changes that can trigger migraine. This article looks at seasonal migraine triggers, treatments, and prevention strategies.

Migraine is a complex disorder that may occur due to genetic mutation and family history. There are many different triggers, including:

  • stress
  • hormonal changes
  • skipping meals
  • too much or too little sleep
  • weather changes

Learn more about migraine here.

Although it may depend on location, changing seasons usually bring new weather patterns, such as changes in air pressure, hours of sunshine, and environmental allergies. These environmental factors can trigger migraine in some people.

Some research found that weather shifts are a common cause of migraine, along with hormone changes and stress, with up to one-third of people that experience migraine episodes reporting weather patterns as a trigger.

Learn about other migraine triggers here.

Springtime invariably leads to a rise in pollen counts usually rise. Pollen allergies and hay fever, or allergic rhinitis, can trigger migraine. According to a 2016 study, there is a significant link between migraine and allergic rhinitis.

A small study involving 49 people with a history of migraine and 49 people without migraine looked at the link between seasonal allergies and migraine. The results indicate that migraine episodes occurred more often in people with seasonal allergies than those without.

Learn more about spring allergies here.

According to the American Migraine Foundation, the cold, dry air, and winter storms can also affect barometric pressure and trigger migraine.

In addition to migraine, other types of seasonal headaches include:

Sinus headaches

According to one review, sinus headaches may refer to any facial pain or sinus infection occurring due to increased pressure in the sinus cavity. However, this symptom alone does not constitute a diagnosis.

The report advises that doctors and healthcare professionals treat most facial pressure and pain with accompanying sinus symptoms as a migraine episode.

Learn about the differences between a sinus headache and a migraine here.

Cluster headaches

Cluster headaches involve periods of frequent headaches followed by times of remission or no headaches.

There is a strong relationship between cluster headaches and seasonal changes. Cluster headaches may increase with seasonal changes due to changes in daylight that may affect the sleep-wake cycle.

Learn more about sleep cycles here.

Doctors diagnose migraine using a combination of symptom review, medical history, and a physical exam.

Doctors and healthcare professionals may also recommend keeping a migraine diary that involves tracking when migraine occurs, how long they last, the weather conditions, and any other triggers that may have caused the episode. By establishing a pattern, individuals can learn what triggers their migraine and potentially work to avoid them where possible.

Doctors may also perform a physical exam to check for other signs of neurological or other medical conditions that may cause headaches.

In some cases, imaging tests such as computed tomography (CT) scans, also known as CAT scans, can help analyze other headache causes.

Learn more about CAT scans for diagnosing migraine here.

Migraine episodes can last for hours or even days. In addition to a headache, migraine can also cause light sensitivity, nausea, and fatigue. Symptoms may interfere with daily activities.

Seasonal migraine treatment options usually include the following medications.

Over-the-counter (OTC) pain relievers

Medications such as ibuprofen may help decrease headaches.

Some drugs also combine acetaminophen and caffeine, which may reduce migraine symptoms.

OTC medications can have side effects, such as stomach upset.

Triptans

This class of drugs treats migraine by blocking certain pathways in the brain that may trigger attacks.

Common medications include sumatriptan and rizatriptan.

Side effects can include increased heart rate and chest pressure.

Anti-nausea medications

Nausea can also develop during migraine. Antiemetic medication to ease nausea may include metoclopramide and prochlorperazine. Side effects can include sleepiness.

Other treatment options

In addition to medications, other treatments may include:

  • resting
  • applying a cold or hot pack
  • massage
  • acupressure

Learn about more natural remedies to ease migraine here.

Although it is not always possible to prevent a migraine episode, there are steps a person can take to decrease their frequency and intensity, such as:

  • Avoiding triggers: If seasonal migraine occurs, individuals may consider monitoring weather changes and staying indoors where possible. Wearing a face covering to block allergens, such as pollen, may also help with allergies.
  • Lifestyle: Making considered lifestyle choices can help decrease migraine severity. For example, a person may ensure they get enough sleep, eat nutritious food, stay well-hydrated, and exercise regularly.
  • Medications: Certain classifications of medications may help prevent migraine headaches. For instance, some anticonvulsants, beta-blockers, and antidepressants may reduce migraine frequency. Additionally, a doctor may prescribe the newer treatment of calcitonin gene-related peptide (CGRP) inhibitors to prevent migraine frequency and medication usage.
  • Botox injections: Botulinum toxin, commonly known as botox, may block certain chemicals in the brain that trigger migraine.
  • Taking medications at the first sign: A person may also find taking medication at the first sign of a migraine episode more effective than waiting until the headache becomes too severe.

Learn about some ways to prevent migraine here.

There is a link between migraine and changes in weather patterns, including temperature, humidity, and barometric pressure. An individual should keep a migraine journal to learn what their triggers include.

Seasonal migraine prevention strategies, such as avoiding triggers, making considered lifestyle choices, and taking medication, may reduce the frequency and severity of migraine episodes.



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