For many people with migraines, heat headaches can trigger symptoms that are difficult to relieve. Such headaches often occur in hot weather or during physical activities that raise body temperature. They vary from person to person, but are usually a symptom of heat exhaustion. Heat itself does not cause headaches, but its effects on the body can. Here is some important information and advice you can follow to counteract such health conditions.
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When a migraine and headache can occur in the heat
It is already known that certain environmental conditions and lifestyle factors cause headaches in hot weather. People who claim that heat worsens the frequency or severity of their migraines are probably right. Many look forward to the summer months because they can do more activities and exercise outside. However, if you don’t drink enough fluids in hot weather, you may experience headaches due to dehydration. When you are dehydrated, you have less fluid in your body tissues and brain. Your brain tissue shrinks and pulls away from your skull, causing nerve pain. Drinking fluids replaces the lost tissue fluids to normal levels and eliminates the cause of headaches.
In some cases, sun exposure can also trigger heat headaches or migraines. Photophobia is a term used to describe abnormal discomfort and sensitivity to light. It is a neurological symptom in which information is transmitted between the eye and the brain. The part of the eye that transmits light to the brain is different from the part of the eye that allows vision. For this reason, even a blind person can develop a headache induced by it. However, a heat-induced migraine is not the same as a heat-induced headache, as the two have some differences in their symptoms. What heat-induced migraines and headaches have in common is that they are both triggered by the way heat affects your body.
Other factors and causes of summer headaches
Barometric pressure is the level of air pressure within the atmosphere. Thunderstorms in the summer are a common cause of barometric pressure changes. Research shows that even small decreases in atmospheric pressure can cause migraines or headaches. Another factor is hormonal changes in the body. Hot flashes are associated with perimenopause and occur with changes in estrogen levels.
In addition, the hormone called estrogen works with a part of the brain involved in regulating body temperature. Low estrogen levels can raise body temperature to uncomfortably high levels and cause hot flashes and night sweats. However, headaches can also result from physical activity when the weather is too hot, leading to heat exhaustion. Heat exhaustion occurs when the body gets too hot and cannot cool down. This happens more often in the hot summer months, especially when it is humid.
Identify possible symptoms like heat headache
Symptoms of a heat-induced headache can vary depending on the circumstances. If your headache is triggered by heat exhaustion, additional heat exhaustion symptoms will occur. Heat exhaustion symptoms include: Dizziness, muscle cramps or tension, nausea, fainting, or extreme thirst that does not subside. If your headache or migraine is related to heat exposure but not heat exhaustion, your symptoms may include a throbbing, dull feeling in your head, fatigue, sensitivity to light, and dehydration. For migraine headaches that occur in heat or summer environmental conditions, knowing your early warning signs and attack symptoms can help you manage them.
Pain relief tips
If heat tends to trigger your headaches or migraines, you can be proactive about managing them. Limit your time outdoors on hot days and protect your eyes with sunglasses or a brimmed hat when you head out. Exercise indoors in an air-conditioned environment if you are able. Drink extra water when temperatures begin to rise, and consider drinking sports drinks to replace your electrolytes. Keep track of daily temperatures and weather in the morning and evening, as well as how you feel. Take note of mild symptoms as well as full-blown attacks. You may soon notice that your migraine attacks start a few hours after a temperature spike. However, it may take a little longer to notice a trend. If you track your symptoms for months, you may find that you have more migraines in the summer than in the fall or spring.
If you already have headaches, you may consider home remedies such as lavender or peppermint oils, cold compresses, iced herbal teas, and herbs such as motherwort or willow bark. You can also use some medications, such as ibuprofen, as needed to relieve pain. Even if heat is not a problem for you, keeping a headache diary is a helpful way to track triggers and the most effective prevention and treatment strategies. If you find that you are sensitive to temperature increases, follow these strategies as soon as you notice early symptoms. If you find that you are sensitive to temperature increases, follow the strategies below as soon as you notice early symptoms.
Methods to prevent symptoms
- Stay hydrated: Since dehydration is a common cause of headaches and migraine attacks even in cool weather, drinking plenty of water and other nutritious fluids can be an essential prevention strategy. Carry a large cool bottle of water with you wherever you go and drink from it frequently throughout the day. Set a stopwatch as needed or use an app for reminders.
- Take the medication recommended by your doctor: The best medication varies between migraine sufferers and can be either over-the-counter or prescription. As soon as you notice your early migraine symptoms, such as yawning or irritability, you should take your medication. This may prevent the onset of the migraine attack or minimize the intensity and length of the symptoms.
- Sit in a cool room: with the lights off or with a narrow-band green light, symptoms should subside. When you feel the first signs of a heat-related headache, go to a quiet place where you can sit or lie down and relax. Turn off the lights, pull down the blinds and take a nap or meditate if you have time. If you are at work or can’t sleep, try using a narrow band green light to continue your work. Compared to everyday light, this unique band has been shown to produce smaller electrical signals that help calm your brain.
- Turn to your proven migraine management strategies: this is where diligent tracking of triggers and effective management in a headache diary pays off. Use the strategies that work best and most consistently for you. Options include caffeine in a cup of coffee or tea, sunglasses, massage and meditation. However, you should pay attention over time to find the ideal methods for you.