Hurricanes and Migraines

Hurricane Florence is more than a pain in the neck, she’s a migraine trigger.

When a severe weather event happens, many people get stressed. However, the ordeal of preparing for a hurricane can be a literal headache for many.

One in seven people suffer from migraines and an attack can be triggered by anything from a strong odor to bright lights or certain sounds, and as many now know, even a hurricane.

Sufferers who use migraine apps like Migraine Buddy know that their heads are like barometers. The app tracks weather changes and offers an item in the ‘triggers’ section related to variable weather. It also records the barometric pressure where the user was at the time of the attack, noting fluctuations.

Migraine Buddy’s weather section is backed by a Harvard study done in 2009: when the temperature increases and the pressure decreases, the risk of headaches becomes greater.

Just like a person can “feel it in their bones” when a storms-a-brewing, many people can also feel it in their head when a hurricane is on its way.

Even though it’s not understood exactly why regular storms and hurricanes can trigger headaches, we do know that weather systems can be a strong influence, according to Dan Kassicieh, an osteopathic neurologist and headache specialist who sees an increase of migraine and headache complaints during poor weather from his patients.

This is in part because of the pressure inside our sinuses. The air filled spaces can be affected by low pressure in the atmosphere, causing discomfort and severe headaches for those who are sensitive to weather fluctuations on top of other triggers.

Being prepared is the best defense. In addition to using a migraine app or keeping a headache journal to see if weather is a trigger, sufferers can take a painkiller or sinus medication before a storm, especially a hurricane. For a more natural approach, using essential oils that help clear the sinuses (such as peppermint) is a great alternative to taking medication. Avoiding other triggers such as caffeine and staying hydrated ahead of a hurricane are also easy natural preventatives. Overall, self care is essential in avoiding hurricane migraines. 

Though many people know they suffer from weather related headaches, the science of the exact causes is still being looked into. With about fifty percent of migraineurs stating weather as a cause for their discomfort, more studies can help in the prevention and management of pain episodes.

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