Can summer cause migraines?

Can summer cause migraines?


A migraine is a type of headache that causes very intense pain on one side of the head, vomiting and even auras. While some people might be aware of what triggers their migraines, such as hormonal changes or a lack of sleep, migraines may also be triggered by a change in the seasons, too.
As the summer heat hits the UK (no matter how brief!) and the daylight hours extend, certain people may find that they’re having frequent migraine attacks. Is this a coincidence? Or are the summer months truly the cause of your pain?
In this guide we’ll attempt to prove whether migraines can indeed be caused by the summer season, the symptoms, other migraine triggers, and what you can do to prevent and relieve your maddening migraines.


What is a migraine?

A migraine is when you have a severe throbbing pain on one side of the head, but some people may find that the pain affects the area behind the eyes, the back of the head and the neck, too. Symptoms like nausea, vomiting and an increased sensitivity to light or sound are typically signs that your headache is a migraine.
Migraines are a relatively common health condition in the UK and they usually begin in early adulthood. They affect around 1 in 5 women and around 1 in every 15 men.
There isn’t just one type of migraine, either. In fact, there are several, including:
Migraine without aura: this is the most common type of migraine, where you’ll experience migraine symptoms (throbbing pain, nausea, etc) without the specific warning sign of an aura.
Migraine with aura: these migraines warn you with an aura, such as flashing lights or blind spots, before the migraine begins.
Migraine aura without headache: this is also known as a ‘silent migraine’ where you experience an aura and other migraine symptoms but you have no headache.
Certain people may have a migraine several times a week, whereas others may only have a migraine occasionally. You may even be lucky enough for years to pass between migraines!


So, can summer really cause migraines?

During the summertime, the temperature rises, the humidity increases, we have longer daylight hours and there are fluctuations to the barometric pressure (the force or weight of the air surrounding us). All of these changes may increase the likelihood of you having a migraine, otherwise referred to as a seasonal migraine.
In one study that examined subjects suffering from migraines, over half of them were found to be particularly sensitive to the changes in the weather conditions that occur when the seasons shift, including temperature, humidity levels, weather pattern and barometric pressure.
However, it can also be said that during summer, our lifestyles change, too. Our sleeping habits are easily disturbed because the evenings stay lighter for longer, the warm weather makes you sweat which could lead to dehydration, and the pollen count is typically high. 
Lack of sleep, dehydration and hay fever can cause headaches and may even worsen your migraine. So, whether summer itself or the symptoms of summer are to blame for inducing your migraines, that’s for you to decide!


Other migraine triggers

Of course, your migraine doesn’t have to be triggered by something seasonal. There are other triggers for migraines, including:

  • Hormonal changes, like the time around your period or during the menopause
  • Emotional triggers, such as stress, tension, anxiety, shock, depression and excitement
  • Physical triggers, such as tiredness, shift work, poor posture, neck or shoulder tension, jet lag, low blood sugar and strenuous exercise, especially if you aren’t used to it
  • Dietary triggers, such as missed meals, dehydration, alcohol, caffeine and certain foods
  • Environmental triggers such as bright lights, flickering screens, smoking, loud noises and smells
  • Medicines, like certain types of sleeping pills, the combined contraceptive pill and hormone replacement therapy (HRT)


What you can do to prevent summer migraines

Summer is a bright delight to many, but for those who suffer from seasonal migraines, summer might be quite unwelcome. If you’re looking for some helpful tips on how you can avoid a migraine from ruining your summer, keep reading.
Summer is synonymous with hot weather, so it’s vital that you don’t become dehydrated. Dehydration causes headaches, including migraines, so always keep a water bottle handy!
Think twice about flocking outside to enjoy the summer sunshine if you’re prone to migraines. But when you do, it’s important to protect your eyes against the brightness with a pair of sunglasses.
Strong smells are a risky trigger when it comes to migraines, so be careful when buying your sunscreen and insect repellent. It’s always safer to just go fragrance-free!

What treatments are available to relieve summer migraines?

Typically, painkillers - like paracetamol and ibuprofen - are effective at relieving migraine pain. Sometimes, however, these might not be enough to keep your migraine at bay. If your migraines are very severe, it may be useful to speak to your GP or a helpful Chemist4U pharmacist for advice on alternative, stronger treatment options.
By heading over to our clinic and starting a consultation by answering a few quick, health-related questions, a Chemist4U pharmacist may be able to prescribe you with anti-sickness medications and stronger pain relief, like triptans, if they believe they're the right option for you. Although there's currently no known cure for migraines, these treatments can help you to manage your symptoms.
Other people find that lying down in a quiet, dark room to be effective in relieving migraine pain as it limits your exposure to bright lights and loud noise. Holding a cold compress against your eyes and forehead are known to be useful, too.

Migraines can be extremely painful and debilitating to deal with – often, the only thing you’ll want to do when you have a migraine is retreat to a dark, quiet room to sleep. Many migraine sufferers are aware of what triggers their attacks and can avoid them, but what can you do if your migraines are seasonal?
If a migraine does strike, we hope this helpful guide has given you some tips you can try in order to wipe-out that wincing migraine pain. If you need further information about migraines, visit the NHS website.


Alexandra Moses - Medical Content Writer
James O'Loan - CEO & Superintendent Pharmacist
James O'Loan , CEO & Superintendent Pharmacist on 14 March 2023
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