Can a Hot Day Give You a Headache?
When it’s warm out, you might be prepping for beach escapes and road trips — but should you also be ready for more frequent headaches and migraines? Let’s examine the research.
Many people believe that weather changes, such as hot and sunny days, can trigger a headache or worsen symptoms. 2 Because of this common belief, many studies have examined this connection 1 2 3, but the findings haven’t been so clear: Some research studies have shown that warm weather can trigger headaches in some people 1, while others found no significant connection 2.
For example, in a study with more than 7,000 participants treated at a Boston hospital’s emergency department, higher temperatures were found to increase the risk of headache. 1 In fact, the researchers reported that for every 5 degree Celsius (9 degree Fahrenheit) increase in temperature, the headache risk increased by approximately 7.5%. 1
But other studies have found no connection 2 . For instance, a small study in Vienna compared the detailed headache diaries of 238 migraine sufferers with 17 different weather situations during a set testing period (90 days) 2 . The researchers concluded that weather factors had a small and questionable impact on migraines and headaches. 2
Other environmental factors may also play a role 3 . One small study surveying people in New York and Connecticut found that when weather was a migraine factor, heat was the most common cause, but more than 25% of participants were also affected by changes in barometric pressure 3 . To complicate matters further, this survey also found that more people thought weather affected their migraines than was actually the case 3 .
Everyone’s headache and migraine triggers are different, and weather may play a role for some.
And remember that other triggers may include lack of sleep, stress, and diet.
Keeping track of your head pain and your potential triggers in a headache diary might help you better understand your specific situation. Be sure to consult your doctor to find the best treatment for you.
Sept. 16, 1999 (Minneapolis) — An increase in body temperature can cause cluster headache attacks, according to a British study in this week’s issue of TheLancet. Patients who get this type of headache can protect themselves by keeping their bedrooms cool at night and avoiding steaming hot baths during times when they are prone to headaches, the authors write.
Cluster headaches are relatively rare, affecting one in 10,000 patients, lead author Joseph N. Blau, MD, tells WebMD. These types of headaches typically affect one side of the face and are characterized by severe pain around the eye, according to Blau. He says that during an attack, the patient typically will have a bloodshot eye on the affected side, as well as a swollen and sometimes drooping eyelid. The nostril will also be congested. Blau is a consultant for the Hospital for Neurology and Neurosurgery in London, where he also directs the City of London Migraine Clinic.
Although most of the symptoms do occur on the same side of the head as the headache, Blau says he undertook the study because several patients had also reported sweating on both sides of the head, as well as on the neck and trunk of the body.
“A new of cluster headache attacks emerged: increased body heat, either from the environment, a hot bath, or central heating, generally within an hour, or from exertion,” Blau writes. He also found that sexual intercourse can cause a temperature spike.
Cluster headaches occur much more frequently in men than in women. Ernestina H. Saxton, MD, PhD. Saxton, who was not involved in the study, tells WebMD that the attacks usually come in a series, or cluster, that may last weeks to months and then may not return for a year or more. During a cluster series, or season, headaches can be triggered by some aspects of the patient’s diet or factors in the environment. But when the series is ended, those factors will not cause headaches. For example, Saxton says, alcohol is a known cluster headache trigger but may only trigger the headache during certain times of the year.
10 headache triggers
Remember to eat regularly, because skipping meals can bring on a headache.
The Migraine Trust offers an online migraine trigger diary here.
9 – Sex headaches
It’s a standing joke that headaches are used as an excuse to avoid sex, but for many men and women coital headaches that come on at the height of passion are a real and distressing problem.
Doctors think sex headaches are due to pressure building up in the head and neck muscles. The headaches can happen during foreplay or just before orgasm, and can last for a few minutes or up to an hour.
How to fix it: They’re inconvenient, but these headaches are usually harmless and don’t mean you have to avoid sex. Take a painkiller a few hours beforehand to block the headache.
10 – Ice cream
Do you get a sharp, stabbing pain in your forehead when you bite into an ice cream cone? Then you’re susceptible to ice cream headaches, caused by cold material moving across the roof of your mouth and the back of your throat. Ice lollies and slushy frozen drinks have the same effect.
How to fix it: The good news is that ice cream headaches don’t need treatment. In fact, they’re over in a flash, rarely lasting more than a minute or two.
5 ways you can get rid of that annoying summer headache
A rise in temperature makes you hot-headed not just figuratively but scientifically. You’d find a lot of people complaining of shooting pain and pounding headaches as the temperatures begin to soar.
A study led by Harvard researchers and published in the journal Neurology has outlined how your vulnerability to a headache increases by 8 per cent each time the temperature amplifies by 9 degrees. “Summer heat makes the blood vessels in your head expand which causes the throbbing pain,” says Santosh Kumar Pandey, naturopath, and founder Shenmen Healing Center, Mumbai .
Also Read: 7 ways to keep your eyes infection-free this summer
The most common headache during these hot months is migraine. “Temperature fluctuation in the summer month worsens migraines. Losing a lot of water and sodium through sweating can trigger migraine too,” says Dr Praveen Gupta, Director and Unit Head (Neurology) at Fortis Memorial Research Institute, Gurgaon.
Also Read: 5 signs you need to start chugging more water
However, summers don’t mean that you should go crazy with the liquid diet. “Over-hydration can also throw off the balance of electrolytes, which can lead to a migraine,” says Dr Gupta. Popping a pill every now and then is not a solution to get rid of the pain. It will do you more harm than good. Here are a couple of ways you can nip in the bud that monstrous headache, or chase it away as soon as it starts bothering you.
- Nosh at your regular time. Eating habits usually become awry during the hot season with people mostly skipping their meals. This happens to be a major trigger of migraine. Avoiding hot and spicy food can help you bring down that gruesome pain. People who are prone to headaches should in particular stay away from red wine and chocolates which can dehydrate their system.
- Drink a tall glass of water as soon as your head starts to hurt, suggest naturopath Pandey. It will balance out the electrolytes in your body.
- When stepping out in the sun, even if briefly, remember to carry a head wrap or umbrella. It’s not just the head that needs to be covered to avoid a headache. Wear hats with broad brims that keep sun off your neck, upper chest, back as well as your face.
- When shopping for a sunscreen, insect repellent, and other summer products look for fragrance-free products. A major reason for summer headaches could the strong-fragranced products. Steer clear of them .
- Maintain moderate AC temperature instead of bringing it down to lower levels to beat the heat. 25-27 degrees Celsius room temperature is ideal for the human body.
July 5, 2011 — It’s a difficult time of year for frequent migraine sufferer Nancy Scuri. Certain weather and atmospheric factors affect her sinuses, which, in turn, trigger her debilitating headaches.
“If a storm comes in where barometric pressure changes, that can affect me and set off a migraine,” she said. “I also have an allergy to tree pollen, which affects my sinuses and breathing.”
The tree pollen season has nearly ended but summer still brings plenty of storms that can come at any time.
“I constantly watch the Weather Channel,” Scuri, 43, said.
Scuri of Hauppauge, N.Y., isn’t the only one who gets more frequent migraines during the summer. Experts say there are numerous triggers that can make summer an especially painful time of year for many people prone to migraines. Some research has suggested that summer is the worst time of year, but experts say it really depends on what factors set off migraines.
“Some people do experience more migraines in the summer but, for others, the winter is worse,” said Dr. Joel Saper, founder and director of the Michigan Headache and Neurological Institute in Ann Arbor.
Those who suffer in the summer might experience a migraine when exposed to some of these common triggers:
Losing a lot of water and sodium through sweating can trigger migraines.
“If a lot of sodium is lost when sweating, it can dilute the bloodstream a bit and when sodium goes down to a certain point, it can be very headache-provoking,” Saper said.
A similar effect can happen if people drink too much water. Over-hydration can also throw off the balance of electrolytes, which can lead to a migraine.
Dehydration often occurs during extended periods of exercise, but physical exertion on its own can also trigger migraines.
Lazy Days of Summer
“Migraines can happen at a time of a let down from stress. When a person has a chance to relax, it may be the time for headaches to happen,” said Dr. Andrew Charles, director of the Headache Research and Treatment Program at UCLA’s Geffen School of Medicine in Los Angeles. “The first days of vacation or the start of the weekend are common times for migraines to occur.”
Changes in sleep patterns can also cause migraines in some people. The longer days often cause people to go to sleep later than usual.
“People stay out later and sleeping patterns tend to change,” Saper said. “People with migraines don’t shift time zones well on vacation or tolerate different sleeping patterns well.”
Migraines can also be caused when people don’t eat at their normal times, which tends to happen in the summer. Maintaining consistent sleeping and eating patterns is key, he said.
Summer allergens, such as grass pollen, can also trigger migraines.
“There are also some studies suggesting that differences in the levels of pollutants may be correlated with frequences in migraines,” Charles said.
Humidity can increase the levels of some allergens in the environment and can also cause migraines in other ways.
“Humidity can trigger migraines because when it’s humid, you can pick up odors you wouldn’t smell on a less humid day,” Saper said.
Other summer migraine triggers include the heat, which can cause changes in body temperature; alcoholic beverages and higher altitudes some people might experience when they go camping.
Experts recommend that migraine sufferers know what their triggers are and avoid them if possible, but say even when all precautions are followed, migraines might still strike.
That’s a painful reality Scuri experiences on a regular basis.
“As long as I stay on top of things, I’m OK,” she said. “But I still get migraines one or two times a month.”