Coping With Summer Migraine Triggers

Summer brings in a range of triggers including warmer weather and drops in atmospheric pressure; stay prepared for seasonal migraines by knowing what triggers to look out for and how to reduce their impact.

Updated: Monday 13 June 2022

ways to deal with migraines in summer

What is a migraine?

A migraine is a neurological condition that involves a severe headache alongside a variety of sometimes debilitating symptoms, such as; nausea, photosensitivity and sensitivity to sound. Migraines are the third most common health condition in the world, overtaking diabetes, asthma and epilepsy combined [1]. It’s estimated that around 10 million people aged between 15 and 69 suffer from migraines in the UK; around 15-23% of the population [2].

Migraines affect both adults and children, but rates of diagnosis across adults are affected by a variety of factors, like hormone balances. For example, migraines affect 1 in 5 women, whilst affecting 1 in 15 men [3].

There are also various types of migraines, with the most common being a ‘migraine without aura’. The ‘without aura’ refers to a lack of warning about a migraine onset, that would usually be presented through blind spots or seeing flashing lights.

What's the difference between a migraine and a headache?

There’s a wide range of both headaches and migraines that share similarities across their symptoms, meaning it can often be difficult to tell them apart. However, the difference is routinely categorised by evaluating the severity of the symptoms, like the level of pain the sufferer is feeling and how long the symptoms last for.

Headache symptoms involve pain in the forehead, temples and back of the neck, and this pain will usually subside after 30 minutes to a few hours.

Migraine symptoms go beyond just having head pain. Sufferers may also feel symptoms like nausea, ear pain, visual disturbances like seeing spots, sensitivity to light and/or sound, vomiting, neck and shoulder pain and muscle aches alongside their headache pain, and possibly leading up to it. These symptoms greatly impact the ability to carry out day-to-day tasks and usually migraines will last between 4 and 72 hours.

What causes migraines?

It’s still not conclusive what causes migraines, as each sufferer tends to have an individual experience with their condition, with different factors that may have a role in causing the onset of a migraine. Some evidence has shown migraines can be the result of temporary changes in the chemicals, nerves and blood vessels in the brain.

During summertime, many migraine sufferers have more migraine attacks than the rest of the year, but why is that? Here’s a non-exhaustive list of seasonal migraine triggers to look out for, and some tips for coping with summer migraine triggers.

Which summer triggers affect migraines?

  • Hay fever: Unfortunately over the summer, the pollen count is at its peak, wreaking havoc by causing inflammation and irritation to the noses and mouths of sufferers. Results from a US study showed that migraine is more common in hay fever and asthma sufferers than those who don’t experience those conditions [4].
  • Dehydration: We dehydrate faster in summer as our bodies are sweating more to stay cool due to increased humidity and temperatures. We can be a lot more tempted to take a sip of a caffeinated fizzy drink or alcoholic beverage over water but insufficient water intake (not just drink intake) can lead to temporary brain shrinkage which can cause pain and discomfort.
  • Lack of sleep: Sleep deprivation is a bi-directional trigger, meaning that whilst a lack of sleep can cause migraines, migraines also cause a lack of sleep. A US study found that sleep deprivation can cause an increase in the body’s pain sensitivity [5].
  • Sunlight: Migraine sufferers often experience photosensitivity, so increased sunlight can cause the onset of a migraine. It is thought that this is a result of a dysfunction in the area of the brain responsible for the release of melatonin [6].
  • Barometric pressure: This is the pressure of the atmosphere, and when a storm or weather change is coming, it usually drops, bringing on migraines. [7].

Ways of coping with summer triggers

  • Stay hydrated: Make sure you stay topped up with water or electrolyte-containing drinks, and eat high water-containing fruit and vegetables.
  • Protect eyes: Wear sunglasses to help reduce the impact from the sun and glares.
  • Get sleep: Try to sleep and wake up at similar times every day to keep consistent, avoid consuming stimulants before bed, relax yourself leading up to going to sleep and avoid sleeping with lamps or electronic screens on as this disrupts your circadian rhythm.
  • Adapt exercise routine: Exercise inside to stay protected from heat, glare, humidity and dehydration, or if you’re unable, have your workout in the early morning or evening when it’s cooler.
  • Migraine diary: Keeping track of your migraines and any triggers you experience will help you understand more about your condition and what factors are more likely to bring the onset of a migraine.
  • Treatments: The group of medications known as ‘triptans’ work as effective painkillers for migraines. We offer Sumatriptan, Rizatriptan and Zomitriptan and more effective migraine treatments.
Amber Mitchell-Hanna

Written by: Amber Mitchell-Hanna

Pharmica Medical Writer

Amber is an experienced writer and content specialist, graduating from De Montfort University with an LLB & an MA in Investigative Journalism.

She particularly enjoys creating informative health content, debunking medical misconceptions, and championing inclusion and diversity.

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Everything you need to know about Migraines
Everything you need to know about Migraines