Many headache sufferers swear there's a link between their pain and the weather. Many doctors, however, disagree and think its nothing more than folklore. Now, studies are beginning to show a correlation between certain weather patterns and different types of headaches.

A study conducted at Boston's Children's Hospital determined that weather was a factor for more than 50 percent of migraine sufferers. More than 60 percent, however, thought that weather changes contributed to their headaches. This led researchers to determine that while weather is certainly an important contributor to pain, more patients believe the weather causes their pain when it actually doesn't.

Another study, published in the journal, Neurology, of more than 7000 subjects showed that warmer weather and changes in atmospheric pressure may trigger headaches, especially migraines. A research team from Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston analyzed data from patients who visited the emergency room and were diagnosed with headache or migraine between 2000 and 2007. They determined that each temperature increase of 5 degrees Celsius appeared to increase the risk of severe headaches by nearly 8 percent compared to days when the weather was cooler.

They used meteorological and pollutant monitors to analyze air temperature, barometric pressure, humidity, fine particulate matter, black carbon, and sulphur dioxides during the three days prior to the hospital visits and then later on.

The study found that of all the environmental factors tested, higher air temperature in the 24 hours before a hospital visit was most closely associated with headache symptoms. Lower barometric pressure also appeared to be a trigger, though the association was not as strong. Air pollutants didn't appear to play a role in development of migraines and headaches, but researchers said that bigger studies were needed to exclude this as a problem.

How can these studies help frequent headache or migraine sufferers? 

  • Keep a headache journal and see if there's any correlation between the timing and frequency of headaches and specific weather patterns.
  • If rainy days or warmer weather seem to be triggering your headache, your doctor might recommend taking headache medicine preventatively before the onset of pain. For example, taking ibuprofen during the days leading up to a patch of warm weather or an oncoming storm might block a headache before it starts.
  • Patients can also make lifestyle changes like working indoors or spending their time in climate controlled areas when the weather report indicates trouble ahead.

Doctors also recommend that frequent headache sufferers evaluate other triggers and health factors that might influence their pain, like stress, diet, and sleep patterns. Talk to your doctor about what else you can do to have more pain-free days.



Headache. 2004 Jun;44(6):596-602.

The effect of weather on headache.

Prince PB, Rapoport AM, Sheftell FD, Tepper SJ, Bigal ME.

Department of Pediatrics, Children's Hospital, Boston, MA, USA.


Kenneth J. Mukamal, Gregory A. Wellenius, Helen H. Suh, and Murray A. Mittleman

Weather and air pollution as triggers of severe headaches Neurology March 10, 2009 72:922-927