A migraine can really make you sick. The pulsating headache is often associated with nausea and vomiting - even sensitivity to light, sound and smell. A study released this week in the journal Neurology looks at the weather as a possible trigger for this common chronic condition.
Kenneth Mukamal is an internist at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston and the lead author of the study. He says scientists know that certain foods, lack of sleep, stress and alcohol can set off migraines. His new study was designed to determine whether environmental factors also play a role.
Researchers reviewed records for 7,000 emergency room patients. Twenty-two hundred had been diagnosed with a migraine.
"And then we simply went back and looked at the [weather and pollution] monitors, and [asked], 'What was the temperature or air pollution like on the 24 hours before somebody came to the emergency room, when their headache would have been getting triggered?'" Mukamal says.
The researchers then compared that to the same 24-hour period a week earlier or a week later.
The results showed that for every f5-degree Celsius rise in temperature, the patient faced a 7.5 percent greater risk for migraine. Mukamal says those findings are substantial considering that temperature affects everyone living in the Boston metropolitan area.
"So you are talking [about] millions of people who are potentially exposed," he says.
The study also found that a drop in barometric pressure can set off a migraine, but to a lesser degree. No increased risk was observed from either increased humidity or air pollution. But researchers say they cannot exclude effects of pollution because of its strong link to stroke, heart disease and respiratory illness.