It seems everyone enjoys summer: bright sunshine, pool parties, BBQ, family all-togethers. This season brings quite the opposite experience to people suffering from migraine: of 14 million migrainers reported in the United States, over a half says weather changes usually triggers their headache attacks. Migraine sufferers confirm: most often migraines happen in summer, triggered by exacerbated seasonal allergies, rapid changes of barometric pressure, different routines, increased amount of light due to sunny days. By being attentive to your state and understanding your migraine triggers, you have a greater chance to avoid the attacks and successfully enjoy lazy summer days headache-free.
In this article My Canadian Pharmacy specialists are going to provide a few valuable tips to minimize the risk of summer migraines.
Why some people suffer from migraines?
First, let’s consider the origin of migraines. Although, the issue isn’t fully researched for now, there is some data that proves this condition appears, when genetic predisposition and uncontrolled external factors merge. Genetic predisposition is responsible for the attack occurrence, while external factors influence the frequency, severity and duration of headaches.
The risk of migraines increases in direct ratio to negative events and factors, such as malnutrition, chronic stress, lack of sleep, hormonal imbalance, light exposure, alcohol consumption, dehydration, weather changes and individual intolerance of some foods. These factors have a negative impact on any of us, but for migrainers any of them can be crucial.
Some factors are relatively easy to control, while some of them are out of it, for example, weather factors. There are 7 weather-related migraine triggers specified by The International Headache Society:
- Spontaneous temperature rise/fall.
- Increased humidity.
- Extremely dry air.
- Windy weather.
- Barometric pressure changes.
- Sun glare and bright light.
Why migraines love summertime?
There is no common opinion in this regard. A lot of research was carried out to understand to correlation between the season and the frequency of migraine attacks and to find the reasons, but no clear answer was found. My Canadian Pharmacy specialists provide three major theories:
High summer temperatures boosts sweating and, as a result, water with sodium reserves are depleted, and people suffer from dehydration more often. Increased sweating during physical exercises also can contribute to dehydration, especially in summer. Every 9 degrees Fahrenheit (approximately 5 Celsius) add 7.5% to the risk of severe headaches also known as migraine.
Photosensitivity (or increased sensitivity to light) can cause more frequent migraine attacks, especially in people, who experience migraine with aura – 17% of migrainers and 47% of migrainers with aura report increased frequency of headaches in sunny summer days, It can be explained by melatonin levels: exposure to sunlight inhibits melatonin production in the brain, but in migraine sufferers it drops severely, therefore these people are more likely to suffer from photosensitivity.
Barometric pressure changes
Summer is known for sudden and unexpected weather changes, detrimental for migraine sufferers. Lower barometric pressure that is common for sunny summer days leads to blood vessel dilatation. To keep the balance, the brain produces more serotonin to control the normal state of vessels and narrow them down. At this point migrainers with aura start noticing typical onset symptoms, such as distorted senses: changed taste or food cravings, blind spots, vision loss, hearing or smelling hallucinations, tingling or numbness and some other symptoms.
After that the serotonin levels come in place, and it leads to another round of vessel dilatation and sever headaches. Scientists discovered that migraine sufferers have a more sensitive sympathetic nervous system: both to weather changes and pain.
To other typical summer reasons for migraine researchers can add:
- Grass allergies and tree pollen;
- Climate or routine changes;
- Excess alcohol consumption;
- Strong unusual scents (of sun-protective cosmetics, for example).
11 Tips to reduce the number of summer migraine attacks
Be aware of the weather forecast. This will give you an opportunity to plan your activities ahead and expect most difficult days. You can look for mobile apps containing a digital barometer or warning your about increased risks of weather-related migraines.
- Stay hydrated, but not overhydrated. As we mentioned above, for migrainers both too little water and too much water can be a problem: dehydration leads to electrolyte imbalance and narrowed vessels, while overhydration washes away electrolyte minerals and cause a headache. If you plan physical activities in summer or have excess sweating – pay attention to isotonic beverages.
- Wear sunglasses. Sun glare from the water surface or sun flickers through the tree leaves can be a serious migraine trigger. Increased light sensitivity requires high-quality sunglasses with polarized lenses, the perfect choice is contoured FL-41 tinted migraine glasses, If you are still troubled by sunlight on the periphery – wear a large-brimmed hat. This would be a heat stroke protection as well.
- Choose scent-free cosmetics. The number of creams and lotions in summer can increase due to sun protection products. Their scents are new and usually annoying enough. Try to choose hypoallergenic products – they are usually scent-free.
- Stick to your usual sleep and exercise routine. That one may be hard on vacations with later going to bed and sleeping till the noon, a nap after a meal, increased amount of food and lazy pastime. Anyway, you should understand that any rapid changes in your sleep ad exercise patterns can lead to stress and increase the risk to get another migraine episode.
- Adapt your schedule to new conditions. If you are not on a vacation, try to spend less time outside, when the sun is high. Plan your shopping or eating out with friends either first thing in the morning or at dusk. If you enjoy such physical activities as walking, riding a bike or running, for summertime you can move to the gym and use a treadmill or other aerobic machines.
- Store your medications right. Most of drugs should be stored in a cool dark place, otherwise their effectiveness drops a lot. If you travel, take your medications in the carry-on, never leave them in the luggage.
- Spend more time on planning ahead. This encompasses the tip #1, but also encourages you for planning as it helps to minimize stress from unexpected situations. Do not forget that stress is on the list of migraine triggers. Before going on vacations check everything twice: your reservations, tickets, car technical state and refill time for your prescription medications – not to run out of them in the middle of your trip.
- Avoid alcohol. This tip doesn’t need further explanation, do it?
- Choose right picnic foods. Do not forget, in some cases migraine can be triggered by certain foods. Instead on unhealthy and potentially dangerous choices, load with healthy dishes, such as grilled salmon, veggies and home-made ginger lemonade. B group vitamins, ginger extract and magnesium are vital for migraine sufferers.
- Re-think your list of supplements. Prolonged exposure to light typical for summer inhibits melatonin and it may lead to disturbed sleep in people suffering from migraines. As we know, lack of sleep can be a trigger. To break the vicious cycle, you may consider including a low dose of melatonin or other sleep supplements to have a good rest. Doctors recommend migrainers additional intake of D vitamin, but in summer there is enough ultraviolet for this vitamin production in the body, so you may safely take a break for summer months.
- Take time for yourself. Perhaps, this is the most difficult tip on this list. We are all used to think about our families, our jobs and many other things we are engaged in. But the truth is so: if you are not at your best, how can you give your best? The energy for all your activities should have a source, Make your “me” time a priority. Enjoy the silence, make some yoga, meditate, read a book, take a bath – whatever you want.
The most difficult moment is saying ‘no’ to activities that your friends and family enjoy so much and that might be a trigger for your migraine attacks. If your kids enjoy swimming, playing and yelling outside – you shouldn’t feel guilty you can’t be there with them. Delegate this task to your partner or get mother’s help services. Your friends should be more understanding, so instead of joining them for a pool party, invite them for a quite BBQ the other day.
Although there is are no guarantees, when it comes to avoiding migraine, the tips we listed above can be a big deal if you follow them and prioritize your health. The most rational approach is being observant instead of being obsessive. There are a lot of ways to enjoy summertime without feeling depressed or guilty for non-going somewhere. There are a lot of relaxed summer activities possessing minimum risk of catching a trigger. And you have enough information about safe alternatives to make an amazing summer schedule!
Stay active and healthy with Canadian Map Pharmacy!