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Can a Hot Day Give You a Headache?

Find out how heat and other weather factors can affect your head pain.  

When it’s warm out, you might be prepping for beach escapes and road trips — but should you also be ready for more frequent headaches and migraines? Let’s examine the research.

Many people believe that weather changes, such as hot and sunny days, can trigger a headache or worsen symptoms. 2 Because of this common belief, many studies have examined this connection 1 2 3, but the findings haven’t been so clear: Some research studies have shown that warm weather can trigger headaches in some people 1, while others found no significant connection 2

For example, in a study with more than 7,000 participants treated at a Boston hospital's emergency department, higher temperatures were found to increase the risk of headache. 1 In fact, the researchers reported that for every 5 degree Celsius (9 degree Fahrenheit) increase in temperature, the headache risk increased by approximately 7.5%. 1

But other studies have found no connection 2 . For instance, a small study in Vienna compared the detailed headache diaries of 238 migraine sufferers with 17 different weather situations during a set testing period (90 days) 2 . The researchers concluded that weather factors had a small and questionable impact on migraines and headaches. 2

Other environmental factors may also play a role 3 . One small study surveying people in New York and Connecticut found that when weather was a migraine factor, heat was the most common cause, but more than 25% of participants were also affected by changes in barometric pressure 3 . To complicate matters further, this survey also found that more people thought weather affected their migraines than was actually the case 3 .

Everyone’s headache and migraine triggers are different, and weather may play a role for some.

And remember that other triggers may include lack of sleep, stress, and diet.

Keeping track of your head pain and your potential triggers in a headache diary might help you better understand your specific situation. Be sure to consult your doctor to find the best treatment for you.

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1.  Mukamal KJ, Wellenius GA, Suh HH, Mittleman MA. Weather and air pollution as triggers of severe headaches. Neurology. 2009;72(10):922-927. doi:10.1212/01.wnl.0000344152.56020.94. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2677474/

2.  Zebenholzer K1, Rudel E, Frantal S, Brannath W, Schmidt K, Wöber-Bingöl C, Wöber C. Migraine and weather: a prospective diary-based analysis. Cephalalgia. 2011;  (4):391-400. doi: 10.1177/0333102410385580. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21112983

3.  Prince, P. B., Rapoport, A. M., Sheftell, F. D., Tepper, S. J. and Bigal, M. E. (2004), The Effect of Weather on Headache. Headache: The Journal of Head and Face Pain, 44: 596–602. doi: 10.1111/j.1526-4610.2004.446008.x http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15186304

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