Severe weather = severe headaches?
May 26, 2006 7:53 PM   Subscribe

Just before heavy rain/thunderstorms (especially so if lightning is involved) I get incredibly lethargic, fall in and out of sleep, get severe headaches, become panicky and restless and then after the whole spectacle is over, the horrible state I'm in vanishes. Why does this happen, and is there is a good way to treat/prevent it?
posted by aletheia to Health & Fitness (14 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I'm prone to thunderstorm headaches myself. I just do what I'd do for any headache – caffeine and advil.
posted by zadcat at 8:04 PM on May 26, 2006

Try running around outside in the rain, if it's not too cold out.
posted by delmoi at 8:04 PM on May 26, 2006

My guess is the change in atmospheric pressure. I usually develop a migrane when a particularly bad storm is on the way. Not much to do. I take Maxalt, but I get migranes at other times as well.
posted by oflinkey at 8:06 PM on May 26, 2006

I get pressure change headaches. Sudafed is the best thing for them in my experience. Not sure if this is your exact problem, though.
posted by ch1x0r at 8:21 PM on May 26, 2006

I doubt it's the change in atmospheric pressure. A typical fall of 0.15 inches before a storm corresponds to travelling uphill 150 ft. Do you get headaches driving around hilly parts of town?

If not, I think a more likely explanation is the sultriness of the air that often precedes storms.
posted by rolypolyman at 8:34 PM on May 26, 2006

rolypolyman, I got the whole pressure change thing from my doctor, so I am interested in your take on this, however I also get migranes before large snowstorms as well--being in Buffalo, NY that can be relatively frequent. I doubt it is sultryness in that case. Any ideas?
posted by oflinkey at 8:49 PM on May 26, 2006

Is there a possibility that this is an anxiety/fear reaction? Do you ever have the symptoms (when you think the storm is coming) but then the storm [asses you by or is not very severe after all? Perhaps your doctor or a psychologist would be willing to prescribe some anti-anxiety medication before the next storm to see if the symptoms are lessened?
posted by Rock Steady at 8:50 PM on May 26, 2006

Part of it is the presence of ionized particles in the air. Ions can cause quite drastic mood changes in people (and animals) who are sensitive to them.

Yes, it sounds all hokey and Sharper Image - ish, but there have been observed effects of positive ion concentration. The headache is probably more due to pressure changes than anything else, but the mood changes might easily be attributed to ion buildup due to the storm.
posted by Dipsomaniac at 8:51 PM on May 26, 2006

Response by poster: To respond to a few of these at once:
I will try Sudafed, which sounds perhaps targeted to this specific case, caffeine and Advil tend not to do anything for my headaches. (And btw, I am not a migraine person.)
As for the hill question: no, I don't get headaches in the hills. This is specific to storms, and given that it is especially bad then there is thunder and lightning rather than just rain, my subjective experience makes me prone to wonder about this ionized particle stuff.
I would rule out anxiety issues because this occurs to the same extent no matter how aware I am (even if not at all) that there is even a storm coming.
Anyone have a link about this sensitivity-to-ions business? Yes, it does sound hokey but I'm no scientist and would be interested to see some research.
posted by aletheia at 9:50 PM on May 26, 2006

I'll just fourth the "change in pressure" explanation -- at least, that's how my mom explains her headaches before storms. (And she was a registered nurse - not that she learned that in nursing school, necessarily).
posted by salvia at 10:50 PM on May 26, 2006

I'm the opposite. I always get this sort of euphoric "warm and fuzzy" feeling when there's a thunderstorm outside. I really can't explain it.

If it's a steady, rolling thunderstorm I feel very calm and at peace with things -- my mind relaxes and I lose most of my incessant worries and obsessions. I usually feel like lying down and taking a light nap or just lying awake and letting my mind clear.

If it's a strong, energetic storm, I feel excited and energized. Usually my eyes are glued to the window watching the storm unfold outside. Afterwards, I usually feel like doing things that I'm not normally motivated to do.

Possibly, you are experiencing similar reactions, only yours are negative effects instead of positive.
posted by joquarky at 11:48 PM on May 26, 2006

Here is a link about the biological efffects of gaseous ions on humans and animals. At the very least, it appears that the presence of ions in the atmosphere can have significant effects on serotonin levels, with the actual magnitude of the effect varying widely in the population. Since serotonin is known to have effects on mood, among other things, that might be an explanation. Perhaps you're one of the sensitive ones.

From what I read, in some people gaseous ions in the air can cause significant release of serotonin, and that could easily be a factor in the mood changes you're experiencing.

But then again, I'm not a doctory of any sort, so obviously I'm no authority.
posted by Dipsomaniac at 11:41 AM on May 27, 2006

Indeed, I am not a doctor, either.
posted by Dipsomaniac at 11:42 AM on May 27, 2006

Same think happens to me. t's been observed in animals as well. Fairly sure it is pressure drop and other factors mentioned here. I also suspect it may be an evolutionary response (lightning, run for cover, don't move) but that is speculation.
posted by stbalbach at 1:37 PM on May 27, 2006

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