Summer Headache Triggers

Look out for these potential headache triggers as the weather warms up.

Ah, summer. It’s the season of sun, surf, and relaxation — and sometimes headaches.

It turns out, as the temperature rises, so does the risk of headaches in some people. In one Harvard University study of more than 7,000 emergency room patients diagnosed with headaches, the patients’ short-term risk of severe headache increased 7.5 percent with every nine-degree Fahrenheit rise in temperature during the 24 hours preceding a patient’s ER visit. 1

But summer heat isn’t the only thing that may trigger headaches. These unexpected triggers may also cause head pain for some:

Hot Dogs — The summer staple contains nitrites, which may cause headaches in some sensitive individuals. While nitrates are generally present in foods in very small quantities, sensitivity to the chemicals can vary greatly. If eating other processed meats such as salami and bacon tends to cause you headaches, it’s probably a good idea to swap the hot dog for a burger.

Exercise — That exciting win in beach volleyball could go straight to your head — literally. Strenuous exercise, especially in hot and humid environments, may trigger headaches in some. Listen to your body during any exercise and begin and end your workouts with a warm up and cool down, which can help prevent exercise headaches in some.

Dehydration — Mild dehydration may cause headaches in some year round, but in the summer, hot temps and excessive sweating and can make it all the more prevalent. To prevent dehydration, drink plenty of fluids and eat foods that are rich in water, such as fruits and vegetables. To gauge your hydration levels, pay attention to the color of your urine: While clear or light-colored urine typically means you’re well hydrated, dark yellow or amber-colored urine could be a symptom of dehydration.

If you suffer from summer headaches, tracking your symptoms in a headache diary may help you identify your personal headache triggers. And, if needed, do not hesitate to consult your physician.

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1. Mukamal KJ, Wellenius GA, Suh HH, Mittleman MA. Weather and air pollution as triggers of severe headaches. Neurology. 2009 Mar 10;72(10):922-7. doi: 10.1212/01.wnl.0000344152.56020.94. Erratum in: Neurology. 2009 Oct 27;73(17):1428. PubMed PMID: 19273827; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC2677474. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19273827?dopt=Abstract

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