AUSTIN (KXAN) — Thursday’s storm may have been the cause of migraines for people in the Austin area due to a combination of environmental triggers, according to a local doctor.
Dr. Samantha Irwin, a pediatric neurologist at Dell Children’s who specializes in headache disorders, said that there’s a wide range of precipitants or triggers that can lead to a migraine. These can include changes in sleep patterns, stress, and changes in hydration or eating patterns.
“We’ve been able to use electronic headache diaries, compare them to weather patterns in certain cities, and it’s become pretty clear that weather changes are a trigger for about one-third to two-thirds of patients with migraines,” Irwin said. “That recent storm we had out here was a trigger for a lot of people.”
A cloudy day that changes the amount of light one is used to, or a drop in atmospheric pressure, are examples of weather triggers.
But these can be unique for each patient, according to Irwin. She recommends migraine patients keep track of migraine episodes and the day’s weather in order to determine which triggers are relevant.
“If you feel like you’re someone that every time there’s a storm or a big change in weather, you get a terrible migraine attack, that would be something to take note of and to do some more kind of thorough tracking of your own headache pattern with weather changes,” Irwin said. “If you’re very sensitive to weather, you and your doctor might discuss having a preemptive plan before the weather even occurs.”
Beyond migraines, Irwin notes that all other headache disorders can be sensitive to changes in the weather.
Patients with chronic migraines should discuss migraine-specific pain medications with their medical provider, Irwin advises. She also recommends treating pain early, while it is mild, and before it gets severe.
“One common misattribution is a lot of people think that they get sinus headaches, or allergy headaches, or that that’s what they’re suffering from,” Irwin said. “Up to 50% of people kind of misattribute their migraine as sinus headaches. If people are just treating their migraine with allergy medications, it’s probably not going to be as effective.”