A Migraine in the Forecast

New research shows weather can trigger the blinding headaches

SATURDAY, Feb. 28, 2004 (HealthDayNews) -- Doctors have long brushed aside patients who think the weather can trigger their migraine headaches.

However, recent research has found weather conditions can unleash the withering headaches in as many as half of all sufferers -- and cold, dry conditions are the most common culprits.

The study was conducted by Dr. Patricia Birgeneau Prince, as part of a project at The New England Center for Headache in Connecticut.

Some people prone to migraines tend to blame high temperatures and humidity for their headaches. And that can be the case.

However, the study found that a combination of low humidity and cold weather is more likely to blame.

Other weather triggers for some patients include shifting weather patterns, and changes in barometric pressure or extreme barometric pressure.

Between 28 million and 30 million Americans -- or about 12 percent of the population -- suffer from migraines. Worldwide, the number is about 6 percent.

About half the patients in Prince's study were truly affected by the weather. Before the study started, 85 percent were convinced weather was their nemesis.

Experts recommend that people who believe they suffer weather-induced migraines keep a calendar for several months. They should note the pattern of their headaches and the weather conditions when each headache hits.

Once weather has been confirmed as a factor in their attacks, and they know what kind of weather they're sensitive to, sufferers can monitor weather reports more closely and take preventive medication when threatening weather patterns develop.

Another workable strategy: Have acute care medicine on hand when a weather trigger is imminent, and take it at the first sign of a headache.

More information

Find out more about migraines and their causes from the National Migraine Awareness Organization.

SOURCE: International Headache Society
Consumer News