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Are Migraines Worse In A Heatwave?

Jul 11, 2018 Migraine

We all suffer from tiredness and discomfort in a heat wave and those with migraines suffer more than most.  Hot weather triggers headaches in people who are not migraine sufferers doctors are not entirely sure why but it is likely to be due to dehydration and changes in air pressure.  The summer months involve many changes in routine and avoiding migraine triggers is difficult without an increase in heat. Heat increases stress on the body due to the sheer effort of maintaining a safe body temperature.  Your heart rate increases and blood vessels move towards the surface of the skin to help heat escape.  This results in sweating which draws water away from joints, muscles and the brain. Decreasing water levels in the body cause dehydration and impact the brain and body. Headaches, tiredness, muscle pain, dizziness, nausea and confusion are common symptoms people suffer in the heat.   It is important to drink plenty and keep physical exertion to a minimum. Those who do physical work must ensure they drink regularly and replace the water they are losing.

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Migraines And Heat

Heat may trigger migraines more frequently in some sufferers and not in others.  Migraine triggers include; stress, hormone changes, food, drinks, sleeping patterns, bright lights and weather changes. It is possible changes in weather pressure cause the onset of a migraine attack.   People manage their migraines by identifying their triggers and avoiding them environmental changes make it more difficult.  Life is busier in the summer months with holidays, driving children to outdoor activities, festivals and the pressure to have fun take their toll. It is more likely the lifestyle changes relating to hot weather trigger migraines more than the heat itself.   We sleep less, need to drink more and lose our appetites during heat waves which are known migraine triggers.  The only way to prevent an attack in extreme weather conditions is to take extra care to avoid such triggers.

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Treatments

Migraines affect 14.7% of people globally and result in lost work days and life experiences.  Research into the condition does not reflect the extent to which the condition affects lives and doctors are still unsure of the cause.  Treatment involves trial and error until the most effective combination of avoiding triggers and medication works for you. Drugs containing opiates take away the pain effectively but are addictive and the body develops immunity to them.  Triptans such as Sumatriptan and Zolmitriptan are taken at the beginning of an attack relieve the pain by relaxing the blood vessels to the brain. Some people don’t respond to drug treatments at all and avoid triggers through migraine forecasting. Migraine forecasting involves recording everything you do, eat or drink, experiences and the occurrence of migraines.  This helps sufferers to identify a pattern in their condition and make efforts to avoid triggers. There are lots of phone apps to help you to record attacks and possible triggers.  Being aware of triggers helps people to avoid them and hopefully reduce the number of attacks they suffer. During a heatwave, it is important to avoid triggers, drink plenty and keep cool to avoid an attack.  

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By Birpal Virdee (August 2018)

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