Summer witnesses an increase in migraine cases

With the mercury showing no sign of relenting any time soon, health experts are warning citizens to try and stay indoors as much as they can between noon and 4 pm. While that isn’t possible for a sizeable number of the population, it is important to take adequate precaution — drinking enough water and other liquids, applying sunblock, covering your head while outdoors etc — to ensure that the heat doesn’t get to you. Some of the most common summer ailments are food poisoning (due to food spoiling faster during this weather), heat rash, heat stroke, water-borne conditions and migraines.

Hot weather often triggers migraines

Experts say that there a significant increase in migraines during summer. Says neurologist Dr Ramesh Patankar, “Hot and humid weather is sensitive to the body and often triggers migraines. Migraines are believed to be caused by a combination of genetic  and external factors. Genetic factors make one susceptible in developing this  headache  disorder while external factors influence it occurrence. This is also because one is stressed or skips meals and due to sleep deprivation.”
Adds orofacial pain specialist Dr Ruchika Sood, “Various stimuli can trigger migraines in susceptible individuals. Studies done on the effects of weather changes as a trigger in migraineurs and the results reveal that patients with masticatory muscle pain and those with migraine, present typical temporal pain patterns that are influenced in a different way by weather changes. Migraines as a headache type are characterised by recurrent attacks and hypersensitivity to some kind of sensory stimuli. There can be different types of external and internal stimuli that lead to migraine attacks. Reported migraine triggers include stress, sleep, fatigue, fasting, physical exercise, hormonal changes, weather, sunlight, alcohol, etc. These trigger factors are found in 73 to 80 per cent of migraineur. The weather is often reported to be one of the most common migraine triggers. Certain changes of specific weather parameters lead to an increase of neuronal excitability of trigeminal neurons and facilitate the beginning of a migraine attack. Genetic predisposition may be the cause for higher susceptibility to neuron-exciting weather parameters.”
Taking precautions is important
Since bright or flashing lights can lead to migraines, one should wear sunglasses and avoid direct exposure to sun light. It is also important to have a hearty breakfast before heading out. Unfortunately, you can’t cure migraines. But medicines and other treatments may help you feel better. Migraines are hereditary. Although the causes are not totally understood, both your environment and genetics play a role. In fact, if one or both of your parents have migraines, you are more likely to experience these headaches. A child with one parent, who suffers from migraines, has about 50 per cent risk of developing migraine. If both parents have migraine, the child’s risk goes up to 75 per cent,” says Dr Patankar.

Lifestyle changes can help reduce the severity of migraines
“The best way to take charge of the situation is to maintain a headache dairy. It will help understand, which weather changes start a migraine and take steps to lessen the effects. Keeping a headache diary, listing each migraine, when it happened, how long it lasted and what could have caused it will help you determine if you have specific weather triggers. Take your migraine medication at the first sign of a migraine and make healthy lifestyle choices — eat healthy foods, exercise regularly, drink enough water, get enough sleep and keep your stress under control. These factors can help reduce the severity of migraines. Exercise can work as a conditioning stimulus and enhance the body’s own capacity to modulate pain. Amongst all the non pharmacological approaches to manage migraine, Cognitive Behaviour Therapy is most recommended and helps one identify the trigger and control them too,” ends Dr Sood.
Courtesy: Zeenia Baria, The Times of India