Luckily, this doesn’t happen to all of us, but for the ones who are affected, you know how terrible it is. You’re just going about your day when your head starts feeling horrible and you look outside and realize that it’s because of the weather. But why? How? How could the weather have this much of an affect on our body?
First off, why do we get headaches when the weather is bad? Changes in temperature or a fall in barometric pressure can trigger a headache or migraine. Weather changes can lead to imbalances in brain chemicals which could also lead to a headache. It is important to know how this works to help our understanding of how weather affects our body.
Barometric pressure, or sometimes better known as atmospheric pressure, is defined as “the pressure exerted by the weight of the atmosphere”. The air around us has weight which pushes against everything it touches (everything). Atmospheric pressure changes depending on where you are, it is why our ears pop when we take off on a plane and why some people get sick at such a high altitude. The higher the altitude, the lower the atmospheric pressure drops. It has to do with weather because barometric pressure can actually indicate the weather. A drop in barometric pressure usually accompanies cloudiness, wind, precipitation, and thunderstorms. So the headaches are an indication of our body’s being affected by the change in pressure. There is also a theory in which the blood vessels in our head expand and contract to compensate for the changes in oxygen levels which are accompanied with the changes in barometric pressure.
Research has been done to back up the idea that changes in weather causes headaches. Researchers monitored 7,000 patients who all experienced migraines that were so serious, they could seek treatment in a hospital. They found that the reason was a rise in temperature within the last day. Every 5C rise in temperature increased the possibility of a severe headache by 7.5%. Kenneth Mukamal who led the study stated, “Our results are consistent with the idea that severe headaches can be triggered by external factors. These findings tell us that the environment around us does affect our health and, in terms of headaches, may be impacting many, many people.” This study definitely shows correlation, but of course we know that correlation does not equal causation. I think that there could be many other possible factors that play a role.
Of course, we can not really avoid weather related causes, but there are ways to limit your pain. You can buy a barometer to keep track of weather changes and headache pain to make sure that this is the cause. Your doctor can prescribe you ibuprofen, an anti- inflammatory drug, for when you experience changes in atmospheric pressure, such as when you travel by plane. And lastly, something as simple as fresh air or a humidifier can help to lower the symptoms.
Next time you get a migraine or headache, try listening to this soothing music