Migraines are painful at any time of the year, but many people find that they’re more common during winter. We explore whether it’s the cold weather causing your migraines and, if so, what you can do about it.
Temperature drops, drier air, sleet and snow are all common during winter and can spell warning signs for the hundreds of thousands of migraine sufferers in the UK.[i]
The causes of migraine are complex,[ii] but the weather is considered a trigger in almost half of all acute migraine attacks.[iii] Weather changes can cause imbalances in brain chemicals, including serotonin, that can induce migraines.
Scientists writing in The Journal of Headache and Pain found that those who reported temperature sensitivity are more likely to experience ‘headache increase’ during the winter.[iv]
A 1994 study published in the same journal found that 7% of patients experienced increased migraines during winter.[v]
Scientists believe that fluctuations in temperature and air pressure can cause changes in the chemicals in the brain that can cause migraine. Low pressure has been linked to an increase in migraine, with one study finding that small decreases in atmospheric pressure increased the risk of headaches occurring. [vi]
The causes of your migraines are as unique as you are, but if you find the winter weather causing your headaches to increase in frequency or to worsen, here are five ways you can help to reduce the risk of an attack.
Keep a migraine diary
One way to spot trends and see whether winter weather is causing your headaches is by keeping a migraine diary. In your migraine diary, keep track of details of migraine attacks, including when the symptoms started, how often they occur, the time of day and the current weather conditions. List the migraine tablets you take too, including all brand names. This can help you spot any patterns that emerge and can be useful to discuss with your pharmacist.
Watch the weather
If winter weather is causing your migraines, then keep an eye on the weather forecast. Please pay close attention to the isobars, which give you an indication of whether we are experiencing high or low pressure. Online resources like the Met Office provide detailed charts with information about current air pressure and future predictions.
The cold, dry air in winter can lead to dehydration – a potential trigger for migraine. Carry a water bottle with you and stay topped up during the day. Estimates on exactly how much fluid you need to take per day vary, but the experts at the European Food Safety Agency recommend 2 litres per day for men and 2.5 litres per day for women. Water, lower-fat milk and sugar-free drinks like coffee and tea all count toward this figure.
There is a large range of migraine tablets and treatments available to reduce the pain of an acute headache. Migraine tablets aim to relieve the symptoms of a migraine and if taken pre-emptively, can prevent their onset. Popular migraine relief tablets like Sumatriptan are highly effective at reducing the effects of acute migraine. They can get to work in around half an hour.
If you know that winter causes your migraines to worsen, then consider reviewing your medication with a specialist to ensure it’s right. At The Independent Pharmacy, you can ask our impartial medical team for information and advice about any treatment. They can help you find the most effective migraine treatment for you, all from a trusted and regulated UK-pharmacy.
If you suffer from the debilitating impact of migraines, you must have the right pain relief to hand when you need it. At the Independent Pharmacy, we stock a variety of migraine relief tablet and treatments, including Sumatriptan (50mg and 100mg), Rizatriptan and Zolmitriptan. We offer free delivery with Royal Mail when you spend over £40, with all orders shipped the same day if completed by 4 pm.
If you would like to learn more about migraines or other common health conditions, then check out our range of guides. These have been created by trained pharmacists and include essential information on common drugs and treatments.
[i] The Migraine Trust. (2020). Chronic migraine - The Migraine Trust. [online] Available at: https://www.migrainetrust.org/about-migraine/types-of-migraine/chronic-migraine/ [Accessed 20 Feb. 2020].
[ii] nhs.uk. (2017). Migraine . [online] Available at: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/migraine/ [Accessed 20 Feb. 2020].
[iii] L, K. (2020). The triggers or precipitants of the acute migraine attack. - PubMed - NCBI . [online] Ncbi.nlm.nih.gov. Available at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17403039 [Accessed 20 February. 2020].
[iv] Yang, A., Fuh, J., Huang, N., Shia, B. and Wang, S. (2015). Patients with migraine are right about their perception of temperature as a trigger: time series analysis of headache diary data. The Journal of Headache and Pain, 16(1).
[v] Robbins, L. (1994). Precipitating Factors in Migraine: A Retrospective Review of 494 Patients. Headache: The Journal of Head and Face pain, 34(4), pp.214-216.
[vi] Okuma, H., Okuma, Y. and Kitagawa, Y. (2015). Examination of fluctuations in atmospheric pressure related to migraine. SpringerPlus, 4(1).