A new study by Harvard researchers, appearing in the March issue of Neurology, shows that people are more likely to visit emergency rooms with migraines in warmer weather.
For the study, researchers studied 7,054 patients seen in a single emergency department over a seven year period with a primary discharge diagnosis of headache.
They studied the link between the number of headache cases and levels of temperature, barometric pressure and humidity. They also looked at air pollution levels during the three 24-hour periods before each emergency room visit.
The number of emergency visits for headaches increased by an average of 7.5 percent within 24 hours if the temperature rose by 9 degrees Fahrenheit above the expected temperature.
There was a weaker link with lower barometric pressure, but only for non-migraine headaches. There was no association between migraine frequency and air pollution levels in the days before the ER visits, except for slightly higher risk for non-migraine headaches on days of high nitrogen dioxide readings.
Chocolate, red wine, lack of sleep and menstrual cycles are migraine triggers in many people. Others blame changes in the weather and previous studies have suggested they may be on to something.
Researchers are unsure why higher temperatures cause more migraines, says lead author, Dr. Kenneth J. Mukamal, an associate professor of medicine at Harvard. “There are some physiological effects of warm weather – blood pressure tends to be lower, for example – but how that would cause headaches is uncertain.”
Still, knowing and identifying what triggers an attack gives migraine sufferers a measure of control and this very well may be one of them, says Dr. Mukamal.
An estimated 28 million Americans suffer from migraines. The headaches can often disable sufferers, forcing them to retreat to a quiet dark room for relief.
Treatments include painkillers, biofeedback and newer drugs that relieve swelling in the brain. #