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Barometric Pressure and Migraine: How I Cope with the Transition to Fall

Managing Migraine

October 03, 2022

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Photography by Leslie Taylor/Stocksy United

Photography by Leslie Taylor/Stocksy United

by India Kushner

•••••

Deena Kuruvilla, MD

Medically Reviewed

•••••

•••••

by India Kushner

•••••

Deena Kuruvilla, MD

Medically Reviewed

•••••

•••••

I’ve found that barometric changes trigger my migraine attacks. These tips have helped me better navigate the changing seasons.

The morning after an end-of-summer beach trip, I noticed a crispness in the air. The weather had finally begun to cool. Fall was slowly returning.

While I appreciate the break in the humidity, it can trigger migraine for me. Autumn also means subtle changes in barometric pressure. For people with migraine, this can come with its own array of health problems.

When seasons change, barometric pressure also fluctuates. This means that the pressure in the air, or force being applied to our bodies due to the air, changes. Since our sinuses are filled with air, this shift can cause headaches.

Additionally, the process of days getting shorter can affect sleep schedules. In turn, poor sleep habits can lead to more frequent migraine episodes.

If weather changes are a migraine trigger, you might find yourself experiencing symptoms like:

  • headaches that last between 4 to 72 hours
  • numbness or pain in your face, sinus areas, or neck
  • trouble sleeping
  • sensitivity to light and noise
  • dizziness
  • nausea or vomiting

Waking up to an unexpected day of pain is horrible. To help avoid weather-related migraine episodes, here are a few tricks to keep up your sleeve.

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Plan ahead

Keep an eye out for upcoming storms or weather changes. Accuweather even has a migraine forecast to help you stay up to date on trends in air quality or pressure.

The app Migraine Buddy can also help track migraine triggers and episodes. The app also offers a pressure variation forecast, as well as other resources to help navigate migraine symptoms.

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Stay hydrated

Make sure you’re drinking plenty of water.

Staying hydrated is key to preventing migraine, especially if you’re vomiting and losing fluids. If you’re experiencing sinus pain, staying hydrated is important to make sure your sinuses are draining and aren’t too dry.

Try relieving pressure

If your sinuses are really hurting, try taking a hot shower or inhaling steam from a bowl of hot water. A saline flush can also help. You can buy a spray from the drugstore or make your own. This can help clear your nasal passages and relieve pressure.

Running a humidifier can also help maintain the moisture level in a room and keep your sinuses from getting too dry.

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Take your medication

Nonprescription medication like acetaminophen or ibuprofen can help ease the pain. If your discomfort becomes severe or occurs more and more frequently, you may want to consult your doctor for prescription medication. A doctor can prescribe medication to prevent attacks or treat an attack when it happens.

Heat or ice therapy

Depending on your preference, a cold or hot compress might provide relief. Try placing it on your forehead or the back of your neck to ease the pain.

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Maintain good sleep hygiene

Make sure you’re getting enough sleep. If you have difficulty winding down at night, try avoiding screens right before bed.

You can also try wearing blue-light-blocking glasses to block blue lights from electronics. Blue light can affect your circadian rhythm, which can cause headaches. Most smartphones have a bedtime or night mode you can schedule to come on at a certain time. This mode shifts the color of your screen to reduce the amount of blue light.

Avoid the outdoors

If you know that weather changes are on the horizon, plan some indoor activities to help reduce the likelihood of developing weather-related symptoms. You could catch up on reading, try a new hobby, play board games, or watch a movie you’ve been looking forward to seeing.

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Try yoga

Some gentle stretching or yoga can help prevent migraine attacks and ease migraine pain. A small 2014 study showed that yoga can help prevent migraine frequency and intensity over time.

Track your symptoms

If weather changes seem to be a common trigger, it can help to start a migraine diary. Tracking your day, including the weather, your sleep patterns, and your diet can help you notice when episodes occur and what might be triggering them.

Make sure to note when and where your symptoms started and anything that may have caused them. Describing the type of pain you’re experiencing can also help identify what kind of migraine attack it is.

Try to think back and remember any symptoms leading up to your migraine episode. These kinds of symptoms, during the prodrome stage, can serve as warning signs of migraine.

Prodrome symptoms can include yawning, fatigue, changes in bowel movements (like constipation or diarrhea), or sensitivity to light and sound. Knowing your warning signs can help you recognize the start of attacks earlier and prevent future migraine episodes.

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Set and maintain boundaries

If family members, co-workers, or friends are not being understanding, try to calmly explain what you’re experiencing and why it’s preventing you from doing anything other than laying in bed.

There is a lot of stigma surrounding migraine. Often people who aren’t familiar with migraine think it’s just a headache.

“There’s no empirical test for migraine yet. That’s why people who report these problems with chronic pain are often not believed or are thought to be exaggerating in the work environment,” says Dr. R. Joshua Wootton, an expert on pain psychology at the Arnold Pain Management Center.

Remember, you’re only human

If migraine symptoms disrupt your job or school responsibilities, remember to be kind to yourself.

If you absolutely need to get work done, try doing work sprints, small stretches of time when you focus on being productive in between periods of resting.

Make sure you are taking care of your body so that you can recover and feel better sooner.

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About the author

India Kushner

India R. Kushner is a writing and marketing consultant with a bachelor’s degree in communications, with a concentration in journalism from Goucher College.

Through her work, she has come to appreciate the power of language to uplift unheard voices across diverse platforms. Her writing has been featured on The Tempest and GoodRx. Her poetry has been published in the Corvus Review and she is a former writer-in-residence at Yellow Arrow Publishing. She has previously worked as a volunteer submissions editor at the mental health platform, Better Because Collective.

When not working, India enjoys poetry, rock climbing, hiking, traveling, and reading too many books at the same time.

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