Migraine Meltdown: How Heat Waves Trigger Severe Headaches – Expert Tips to Stay Cool

A young woman from New Jersey, Audrey Pachuta, first experienced heat-related migraines at the age of 9 during a softball tournament in scorching temperatures exceeding 90 degrees. The searing heat triggered vision issues, which Pachuta now recognizes as symptoms of migraines caused by the heat waves becoming more frequent due to climate change.

Experts agree that high temperatures can be a major factor in triggering headaches, especially for those who suffer from migraines. Changes in barometric pressure, direct sun exposure, and humidity can all contribute to environmental factors triggering migraines in susceptible individuals.

Jessica Ailani, a neurologist and director of the Headache Center at MedStar Georgetown, explains that the brain of someone with migraines does not tolerate variability well, making big shifts in temperature and weather problematic. The exact mechanism by which heat triggers headaches is not fully understood, but extreme dehydration can lead to physical pain by causing the brain to shrink and pull on blood vessels.

Individuals like Patrick Cortesi, a landscaper from Illinois, experience frequent headaches due to heat exposure, despite taking precautions like staying hydrated and wearing sun-protective gear. Experts emphasize the importance of recognizing the symptoms of heat-related illnesses such as heat exhaustion or heat stroke early, staying hydrated, and finding ways to cool down.

To alleviate symptoms of heat-induced headaches, experts recommend getting out of the heat, cooling down with a cold drink or ice pack, and seeking indoor air conditioning. It’s crucial to stay hydrated with water and electrolyte drinks, replenish electrolytes lost through sweating, and avoid known food triggers that can exacerbate headaches.

For those struggling with migraines, preventive treatments such as CGRP monoclonal antibodies can help reduce the frequency of headaches. It is suggested that individuals who experience six or more headache days per month consider preventive medication to manage their symptoms.

Overall, while heat-induced headaches can be challenging to deal with, there are various treatments and preventive measures available to help individuals cope with the impact of high temperatures on migraine frequency. It’s important to consult with a healthcare provider to determine the best course of action for managing heat-related migraines.