We often hear someone complain of a headache due to the change of weather. How can we explain this phenomenon and can we prevent it in any way?
Cause and symptoms
Weather changes bring with them changes in barometric pressure. These changes can cause headaches. Barometric pressure refers to the pressure in the air, ie the amount of force that acts on our body from the air. Since our sinuses are filled with air, any change in barometric pressure can affect headache. When the barometric pressure drops, the mentioned difference between the pressure in the outside air and the air inside our sinuses occurs, and we begin to feel pain.
If you suffer from frequent headaches, it is advisable to keep a diary and record each occurrence of the headache, its duration, intensity and the circumstances in which it occurred. In this way, you can spot patterns in the appearance of your headache and thus put in a clearer correlation of pain and changes over time. Headaches that occur as a result of a sudden change in weather may have some additional symptoms compared to a classic headache. Some of these are nausea, vomiting, increased sensitivity to light, numbness of the face and neck, and pain in the temples.
A study was conducted at a clinic in Taiwan that included 758 patients suffering from histamine headaches. Cluster or histamine headaches occur in clusters. Namely, in a period of one to three months, patients have 1 or more seizures per day lasting up to an hour. After one attack it is possible that the next attack will not come for years. It is known that cluster headaches show a seasonal tendency. For the purpose of the research, a database of health insurance research was used. Data on patients and their headaches were collected for as long as 5 years. These data were compared with meteorological images obtained from the Central Office of Meteorology.
A total of 2452 episodes of cluster headache were recorded. They were most common in the fall and least common in the winter. Sudden changes in weather typical of the transition period between the seasons also recorded a higher incidence of headaches. This specifically applies to weather changes from winter to spring and from autumn to winter. It was concluded that 3 times less change in the average daily temperature is required for the same frequency of headaches if the change in weather goes from warmer to colder weather than vice versa.
Prevent or treat?
The treatment of these types of headaches is very individual. It will vary depending on the intensity and frequency of the pain. In milder cases, sufficiently effective over-the-counter medications such as ibuprofen or paracetamol are available. If these medications are not enough, it is possible to get prescription therapy. It may include drugs such as triptans, ergotamines, codeine and other opioids. Opioids should be used cautiously and following the doctor’s instructions as they can be addictive.
Although we cannot influence the change of weather, we can take certain precautions. It is crucial to follow the weather forecast in order to be prepared for a possible headache and thus apply therapy even with a mild onset of pain.
Histamine headache, www.msd-prirucnici.placebo.hr, accessed 14.4.2021.
Understanding Barometric Pressure Headaches: How Does Weather Affect Your Headaches?, 2017, https://www.healthline.com, accessed 12.4.2021.