Migraines in August and Seasonal Pain

August 18, 2016

heatAugust: Ugh!
Though I have been blessed without receiving recurring migraines, if you’ve talked to me throughout the summer, you probably are sick of hearing of how much I am hating the summer. Perhaps this is due to living in a humid and dirty city where everything seems to assault you.  Smells of garbage, the light reflecting annoyingly off of buildings, dripping with sweat on a subway platform, and yes: headaches. If sans good eyewear, my brow scrunches to protect my pale eyes as much as possible.

It seems summer is nothing but a big headache.  

For chronic migraines sufferers, however, if summer is the season that brings on migraine attacks more so than other seasons, it’s more than mere aggravation.  It’s debilitating and paralyzing.  Check out the “For Further Reading” section below on migraine statistics, and how prevalent a disease it is in the U.S.

Seasonal Triggers For Migraine
Triggers associated with migraine are as varied as the people afflicted with them.  In terms of seasonal attacks, this, too, varies.  For example, for some, it’s changes in barometric pressure.  For others (many others) it’s extreme light, such as reported in the journal 
Cephalalgia –a study looking at the affect arctic light – intensified, of course, by the ice reflecting the sky’s intense rays – has on migraine.

However, if summer is your season for attacks, you may be like me: you hate August.

Summer Triggers
While many migraine sufferers already know the importance of keeping a “trigger” journal when experiencing an onset of migraine, common triggers in the summer are both light and heat.

While maybe not as intense as arctic light, summertime light contains heat. If you’re Caucasian (the majority of migraine sufferers are Caucasian and women, in fact), the contact of light combined with the heat makes one susceptible to both sunburn and dehydration.  Sunburn, aside from being painful, can raise the temperature of your body. This, combined with the body’s own natural coolant when hot – sweating – dehydrates.  Serious symptoms of sunburn and dehydration are: a fever of 102 degrees or higher, chills, thirst, reduced urination, dizziness, and fatigue.  

Prevention
So, what to do? I think the advice for avoiding these summertime triggers are by now fairly obvious: use sunscreen with a high UVA, drink LOTS of water (seriously: more than you think), avoid direct contact with the light, stay cool as much as possible, and so on.

Don’t Give in to Summer Peer Pressure!
But here’s the point I want to make.  Though not a migraine sufferer, as one who can be pretty affected by the summer (sunburn, dehydration, headaches, etc.), The aggravation and burden I feel during the hot, humid months has a serious affect on my mood. I can only imagine the effect it has for those whose migraine season is summer. Therefore, if you know the summer can trigger your migraine, it’s ok to take precautions: even if seems contrary to the spirit of the season.

Do not let societal pressure make you feel bad for not enjoying the summer. Sure, summertime is great: vacations,barbecues, a slower work pace, and others. But, if associated with pain, don’t get sucked into any pressure to have  “fun in the sun” that can be rife with triggers.

So if you’re on a boat, and someone offers you a Corona, feel free to say “No, thank you. I’m fine with my Fuji water.”  

It’ll be fine.  I mean: it’s Fuji.

References

  1. Alstadhaug, KB, R Salvesen, and SI Bekkelund. ‘Seasonal Variation in Migraine’. Cephalalgia : an international journal of headache. 25, no. 10 (September 16, 2005): 811–16. Accessed August 12, 2016. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16162258
  2. Iliades MD, Chris and Farrokh Sohrabi MD. ‘What Is Your Headache Season?’. everyday HEALTH (EverydayHealth.com), March 4, 2016. http://www.everydayhealth.com/news/whats-your-headache-season/.
  3. Taylor, JT. ‘Avoiding Migraines Resulting from Changes in Barometric Pressure’. October 7, 2013. Accessed August 12, 2016. https://www.securevideo.com/blog/2013/10/07/avoiding-migraines-resulting-from-changes-in-barometric-pressure/.
  4. ‘Sunburn: Causes, Symptoms, and Treatment’. April 11, 2014. Accessed August 12, 2016. http://www.webmd.com/skin-problems-and-treatments/guide/sunburn#2.
  5. ‘Seven Tips to Fight Warm Weather Migraine’. May 21, 2009. Accessed August 12, 2016. https://www.healthstatus.com/health_blog/wellness/seven-tips-to-fight-warm-weather-migraine/#comment-697314.
  6. Carmichael, Jackie. ‘My Headaches Are Worse in the Summer’. September 1, 2015. Accessed August 12, 2016. http://www.livestrong.com/article/357651-my-headaches-are-worse-in-the-summer/.

For Further Reading

  1. Union, Health. ‘Migraine Statistics: Facts and Data about Migraine’. 2010. Accessed August 12, 2016. https://migraine.com/migraine-statistics/.
  2. ‘Migraine Facts’. 2016. Accessed August 12, 2016. https://migraineresearchfoundation.org/about-migraine/migraine-facts/.

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