Can weather changes cause headaches?

Feel like you have your own built-in evil barometer giving you a headache every time a storm is coming? You aren’t alone. And no, it’s not all “in your head”. (Well, technically, it is. 🙃) Weather changes can definitely be a trigger for headaches. 

What are barometric pressure headaches?

Barometric pressure headaches are headaches triggered by changes in atmospheric pressure. Atmospheric pressure is closely related to weather conditions. When pressure decreases, typically rain and wind follows. When atmospheric pressure is high, the weather is usually sunny and fair. 

Other types of headaches

Barometric pressure plays a role in other types of headaches too. Many who suffer from migraine episodes find that decreased barometric pressure can be a headache trigger. Air pressure also contributes to headaches from being at high altitudes or flying in airplanes. 

Weather pressure headache

People refer to atmospheric pressure by multiple names, like barometric pressure, weather pressure, or air pressure. They all mean the same thing. 

Air pressure headache

You can think of air pressure headaches as the same thing as barometric pressure headaches. 


What causes barometric pressure headaches?

Headaches related to barometric pressure are usually caused by a decrease in pressure. What’s the science behind this? There are a few different hypotheses:

  • The trigeminal nerve is activated and begins firing which causes pain
  • Blood vessels in and near your brain constrict causing pain
  • Brain cells are receiving less oxygen which causes pain
  • Pressure in your sinus cavities become unbalanced with the outside pressure causing pain

What barometric pressure level causes headaches?

Research suggests that it is more the change in barometric pressure – rather than a specific number – that can cause headaches. In one study, a drop of more than 5 hectoPascals (hPa) causes headache in patients with migraine. 

How does air pressure cause barometric headaches?

Air pressure changes trigger headaches in a variety of ways: stimulating a sensitive nerve called the trigeminal nerve, constricting blood vessels, restricting oxygen supply to the brain, and affecting pressure in your sinus cavities. 

Signs and symptoms

What does a Barometric pressure headache feel like

A barometric pressure headache feels like your normal headache or migraine. You may experience:

  • A “tight band” sensation around your head
  • Pain around your temples
  • Sensitivity to light, sound, and smells
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Numbness around your head or neck
  • More yawning
  • Mood changes

Is it a weather pressure headache?

To better understand if your headaches are affected by weather pressure, you need to identify what conditions tend to trigger your headaches. Writing things down in a journal can be helpful. You can look back in the journal to check what seem to be your personal triggers.

Can a headache journal help?

Absolutely! In your journal, keep track of which days you had a headache. Also make note of the conditions, like the weather, the barometric pressure, foods, water intake, stress and sleep patterns.


What to do for barometric pressure headaches

Barometric pressure headaches are usually treated like a regular headache or migraine. 

Treatment options for weather change headaches

Treatment options include over the counter medications, prescription medications, and non-drug treatments. 


Triptans like sumatriptan and rizatriptan medications can help with headaches

Triptans are prescription medications useful for treating migraines, including those triggered by weather pressure changes. Some examples of triptans are sumatriptan (Imitrex), rizatriptan (Maxalt), almotriptan (Axert). Triptan medications are available as pills, shots, or nasal sprays. They generally stop or reduce migraine symptoms in about 30-90 minutes after taking it. 

At-home treatment options for barometric pressure headaches 

At home, you can use an over the counter remedy like acetaminophen (Tylenol) or ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin) for treating a barometric pressure headache.

You may also find relief from non-drug options like a warm bath, a cool cloth to your headache, relaxation, or massage. 


Can you prevent a barometric pressure headache?

Preventing a barometric pressure headache is difficult. After all, you can’t control the weather! But if you are particularly sensitive to weather pressure or live in an area with frequent weather pressure changes (looking at you, Calgary), there are medications to help reduce the frequency of episodes. 


People suffering from migraine tend to have lower levels of magnesium. Magnesium supplementation may help reduce the frequency of headaches.


Beta-blockers such as metoprolol and propranolol are prescription medications which help reduce the frequency of headaches. 


Botox blocks pain signals from being transmitted from your nerves near your head. They can be helpful for people who suffer from severe and frequent headaches. 

Tricyclic antidepressants

Tricyclic antidepressants like amitriptyline are prescription medications which may help reduce the frequency of headaches. 

Anti-seizure medications

Some anti-seizure medications such as divalproex, topiramate, and gabapentin may be prescribed for reducing the frequency of headaches. 

When to see a doctor for your headaches

If you are concerned about your headaches, it is always a good idea to discuss it with your doctor. See a doctor right away if you have:

  • A headache that comes on very suddenly
  • Confusion
  • Unusual vision changes
  • Trouble speaking
  • Drooping of your face or any other neurological symptoms
  • Swollen eyelids
  • Fever
  • If you are older than 50 and don’t have a history of headaches
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