What can I do to prevent weather-related migraines?
October 3, 2010 1:42 PM   Subscribe

What can I do to prevent migraines that appear to be weather-related?

Since childhood, I've gotten one or two migraines a year - a zig-zag aura followed by a mild/moderate headache with slight nausea. Over the past few years, I've gotten the aura with a slight headache or no headache at all. More often than not, the migraines occur in early fall. About a month ago, the weather here in NY suddenly turned fall-like for about a week, and I got several migraine auras with no headache or a slight headache over the course of that week. I also had a runny nose on the days the headaches occurred. I was concerned about the increase in migraine frequency, so I went to see my doctor, who ordered a CT scan that turned out to be normal. The weather warmed up and the auras disappeared for about three weeks. Then from Friday to yesterday, there was a significant drop in temperature and humidity, and I once again had a runny nose and migraine auras. I'm going to see an allergist next week, but I'm curious as to whether any of you have had migraines that appear to be allergy-related or weather-related, and whether there's anything I can do to prevent them. I've always had seasonal allergies, so I'm not sure why I'm suddenly getting more auras. My sinuses appeared clear on the CT scan.
posted by zembla3 to Health & Fitness (11 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
You should see a neurologist who specializes in headaches. There are medicines that prevent migraines in many people. They tend to be really expensive but they are worth it. If you take these preventative medicines at the first sign of a migraine, they can stop its onset. A couple of examples are Maxalt and Relpax.

Changes in weather are thought to be a cause of some migraines. Rather than humidity and temperature, it might be a drop in air pressure that brought on your symptoms.

Runny nose is also a symptom of migraines.

Your allergist might not have picked up on this stuff because they are only looking for allergy things. That's the limitation of specialists. Also, your GP likely thought allergies because the pollen counts have been so high lately. But it's entirely possible you need to see a neurologist.

I am not a doctor, so please take my advice as that of a person who has read a lot about migraines and doesn't have any particular agenda or deep medical knowledge.
posted by vincele at 2:23 PM on October 3, 2010

I'm also not a doctor, but I've suffered debilitating migraines since I was 18. I'm on daily medication to manage them (Topamax, which I highly recommend - after discussing it with your actual doctor), but I still get weather-related migraines pretty frequently. There pretty much isn't a thing I can do about them, except note the very beginning symptoms and try to knock it out with my Migraine Routine. It is barometric pressure-drop related, as vincele pointed out.

I've had some good luck with certain pain meds, like Relpax and Imitrex, but even with a decent insurer, migraine pain meds are ridiculously expensive.
posted by ScarletSpectrum at 2:27 PM on October 3, 2010

Prevent? If weather related, move somewhere with different weather. Wouldn't it be nice if that wasn't the answer.
posted by eccnineten at 2:45 PM on October 3, 2010

I get migraines when the barometric pressure shifts - and I've not found a way to prevent them. The only thing I can do is try and mitigate the severity by relieving the pain as soon as possible.
posted by hapax_legomenon at 3:09 PM on October 3, 2010

Weather is one of several triggers for me. If you find that you have a combination of things that trigger a headache try to manage the ones you can control - I don't drink red wine when there's a front coming in for example. I'm hoping someone else comes up with great methods for solving weather caused migraines besides the drugs because they aren't an option for me but they might work for you.
posted by leslies at 3:14 PM on October 3, 2010

Check out Heal Your Headache by David Buchholz*. Definitely worth a read, even if you don't follow his plan. It'll help you understand why your migraines are happening, and what you can do to prevent them.

That being said, you want a neuro who specializes in headaches. There are dozens of options available to you, but it is usually a matter of trial-and-error before you find the right solution. You need to work closely with a experienced neuro to find your solution.

One of my minor triggers is also barometric pressure, and for weeks I was on the weather websites plotting the pressure trying to prepare myself for the headache I knew was coming. I've relaxed a little bit on this front (mainly because my meds are working), but it's still helpful to know a bit in advance just so I can pop an advil to try and mitigate some of the pain before it starts.

And I have to admit, I've googled to try and figure out which parts of N. America have the least variance in barometric pressure, in case I ever decide to up and move. I think the results were Hawaii and S. California.

*Mr. Buchholz totally owes me for how much I plug his book here on ask mefi.
posted by cgg at 3:36 PM on October 3, 2010 [1 favorite]

I suggest you google the New York times on migraines. They have had a number of articles that you would find helpful. Migraines are often caused by more than one trigger, meaning that several things are going on at the same time to trigger the condition. For example irregular meals or irregular sleep might increase your chances of getting them. Often there are food triggers as well. So you can avoid those things within your power to avoid. You can subscribe to a free service www.mediclim.com that will give you alerts, based on your local weather patterns. Then you can take preventative meaures, possibly including prophylactic migraine meds or pain meds.

If you are not going to take a medication route, then I suggest you look at techniques such as meditation to reduce stress, self-hypnosis (try making your hands warmer). A doctor called Amen has pointed out that having an orgasm can often alleviate the pain. I imagine that that comes from the release of endorphins, which are natural pain fighters. In your case, like mine, the aura is the main thing along with a mild headache so it is more of a nuisance than anything else.

Good luck.
posted by PickeringPete at 4:03 PM on October 3, 2010

My migraines appear to correspond with severe shifts in weather (days where barometric pressure is up and down, for example). However, it's not an ALL days with such extreme weather, so I've concluded that I usually have to combine two or three triggers to end up with a migraine. For me this can be any combination of sinus pressure, dehydration, stress, scents, bright lights, weather, hormones.

So really, the best thing I can do is to keep as many of those in check as possible. I have saline rinse/nasonex to keep my sinuses tip-top, try my best to drink enough, relax, stay out of leather stores/perfume aisles, away from fluorescent lighting as much as possible and hope the god I don't have PMS during a bad weather week.

Try and figure out some other triggers, and you may find that like me, you have more than one working in conjunction with one another.

Best of luck! It sounds like migraines aren't affecting your quality of life *too* much, but it is rather annoying to deal with an aura for an hour when you're trying to do something. Hope you figure it out!
posted by sunshinesky at 4:48 PM on October 3, 2010

Also, if you're taking hormonal birth control, you might want to consider switching methods. Because I really wanted to be on BC, I was in denial for a while, but there was a definite increase in migraines while I was using the pill. Some kinds were worse than others for me. The neurologist had OKed me for using hormonal bc based on my aura symptoms, but it still clearly made a difference.
posted by sunshinesky at 4:55 PM on October 3, 2010

Definitely a job for a migraine specialist, and have them throw in a vitamin D blood test at the same time.

When it comes to unpredictable or flat-out unavoidable triggers-- weather, hormone fluctuations in the absence of hormonal BCP, etc.-- it's probably worth considering daily preventative medication, like Topamax or Namenda. Way I see it, you can spend all your time trying to figure out what's going to bother you today, or you can just find a med that works to stave it off in the first place. Your qualified and educated neuro can always give you a backup scrip for Imitrex or the like in case a migraine slips through the prophylaxis.
posted by fairytale of los angeles at 6:58 PM on October 3, 2010

Ah - so everyone agrees! I was going to chime in with my experience. Nose bit might help actually as I don't think people have mentioned an exact link.

I get a migraine just before a thunderstorm. Barometric pressure drop and all that. But when I was a teen, I used to get a NOSEBLEED too. I don't any more, thank goodness, but I'm betting they were both linked in with the pressure thing and it's not a long way to a runny nose, is it.

I just avoid my other triggers and know I'm going to get one. Luckily they are less severe now and don't involve vomiting!
posted by LyzzyBee at 12:35 PM on October 4, 2010

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