Though blessed without receiving recurring migraines, if you’ve ever talked to me in the summer, you probably are sick of hearing of how much I hate it. Perhaps this is due to living in a humid and dirty city, where everything seems to assault your senses: smells of garbage, the light reflecting annoyingly off of buildings, dripping with sweat on a subway platform, and yes: headaches. If I lack good sunglasses, my brow scrunches to protect my pale eyes as much as possible, my head becomes a locus of painful loathing.
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.
Knowing Your Triggers
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 a change in barometric pressure. For others (many others) it’s extreme light, such as a study published Cephalalgia that focused on the affect arctic light has on migraine.
If summer is your season for attacks, you may be like me: you hate August, and just want to get through it.
While many migraine sufferers already know the importance of keeping a “trigger” journal when experiencing an onset of migraine, common triggers in the summertime light and heat.
Light, Heat, Humidity
While maybe not as intense as arctic light, summertime light is hotter and the weather can be humid. If you’re Caucasian (the majority of migraine sufferers are Caucasian and women), 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 – can bring major dehydration. Serious symptoms of sunburn and dehydration can be a fever of 102 degrees or higher, chills, thirst, reduced urination, dizziness, and fatigue.
We Know What To Do
What to do? Avoiding these summertime triggers are by now fairly obvious: use sunscreen with a high UVA protection, drink LOTS of water (seriously: more than you think), avoid direct contact with the light, stay cool as much as possible, and so on.
It’s OK to Feel Differently!
But here’s the point I wish to make. Though not a migraine sufferer, as one affected by the summer (sunburn, dehydration, headaches, etc.), the aggravation and burden I feel during these hot, humid months has a serious affect on me physically and emotionally. Therefore, I can only imagine the effect it has for those whose migraine season is summer. If you know the summer can trigger your migraine, then, 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 summer. Sure, summertime is great: vacations, barbecues, a slower work pace, and so on. But, if for it’s associated with pain for you, don’t get snookered into any pressure to have the kind of “fun in the sun” that you know can be rife with triggers.
So if you’re on a boat, and someone offers you a Corona, asking you to live a little, feel free to say “I’m fine good with my water, thanks.” Have a good hat, good sunglasses, cover susceptible areas for sunburn, and enjoy the lilting peace of the water. It’s possible! And yes: dear Autumn, please come soon!
- 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
- 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/.
- 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/.
- ‘Sunburn: Causes, Symptoms, and Treatment’. April 11, 2014. Accessed August 12, 2016. http://www.webmd.com/skin-problems-and-treatments/guide/sunburn#2.
- ‘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.
- 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
- Union, Health. ‘Migraine Statistics: Facts and Data about Migraine’. 2010. Accessed August 12, 2016. https://migraine.com/migraine-statistics/.
- ‘Migraine Facts’. 2016. Accessed August 12, 2016. https://migraineresearchfoundation.org/about-migraine/migraine-facts/.