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Migraine expert offers tips to manage warm weather triggers

Migraine expert offers tips to manage warm weather triggers
Headache and migraine specialist Whitney Hanken, AGACNP-BC; photo credit: Audree Larson Kliks Photography

If you suffer from migraine, you may want to keep an eye on the weather forecast: Iowa is notorious for summers with barometric pressure changes that can bring out the worst migraine pain.

Weather changes like high heat and humidity can lead to dehydration, a key trigger for a migraine attack, experts say. In addition, changes in temperature, humidity, greater sunlight and changes to sleeping patterns are all potential migraine triggers.

Nearly 40 million people in the U.S. suffer from this debilitating neurological disease, which is considered the second-most disabling condition after lower back pain.

Women are three times more susceptible to migraine disease than men, and are typically hit hardest in their thirties — some of the most productive years of their lives.

Worse still, many people don’t say anything when they are experiencing a migraine because they don’t think others will understand their pain.

Nearly all respondents to a 2020 survey by the National Headache Foundation (93%) agreed that those who don’t get migraine don’t understand the severity of the disease. And over three-fourths of survey respondents said migraine attacks limit their ability to do the things they want to do, such as exercise, be productive at work and school, take care of their children and make social plans.

Headache and migraine specialist Whitney Hanken, AGACNP-BC, an independent healthcare provider in Cedar Rapids, describes how seasonal changes can affect people living with migraine and explains what they can do to reduce pain and associated symptoms, including the latest treatment options.

What is migraine?

When people think of migraine, they picture a really bad headache.

But it’s so much more. Migraine is a neurological disease that can cause severe throbbing pain, nausea, sensitivity to light and sound and other potentially debilitating symptoms. Many people with migraine often suffer in silence because it’s not a disease that is clearly visible.

Symptoms can last for hours or days and have a significant effect on a person’s daily life. It’s not uncommon to hear some of my patients with migraine say that they’ve had to miss out on activities because of the disease. It interferes with work, school, get-togethers with family and friends, and even such important events as weddings, graduations, children’s birthday parties, to name a few. You name it, it’s the little joys in life that this disease robs from people with migraine. Many of my patients will seek out a quiet, dark space until the migraine and symptoms pass.

How does weather trigger migraine?

Triggers to migraine vary and can differ for each person. Many who have migraine disease are often affected by changes in the weather. Barometric pressure changes — whether very low, which indicates storms approaching, or high, which means clear, dry air — affect many with migraine.

Humidity is another consideration.

Furthermore, hot weather may lead to dehydration, another key trigger that can set off migraine. Simple changes in temperature, humidity, noise from thunder, greater sunlight and sleeping patterns may all contribute to triggering migraine attacks.

How do you help patients with weather-related migraine triggers?

I advise my patients who are affected by weather to keep track of it and be prepared. Try to stay indoors when possible, and stay hydrated. Because we can’t control the weather, I’ll often recommend medication to prevent and manage migraine attacks when they occur. We are very fortunate to live in a time where we have great advances in migraine treatment.

What’s the latest in migraine treatment?

Research shows that people with migraine are hypersensitive to stimuli or have a lower threshold for certain changes, such as weather. This hypersensitivity activates a protein in the brain called CGRP (calcitonin gene-related peptide), which is related to resulting migraine pain.

I’ll prescribe medication, such as Nurtec ODT (rimegepant), because it blocks CGRP activity. Nurtec ODT is the first and only prescription medication that can both stop a migraine as well as prevent one from happening in the first place.

Also, the tablet dissolves in the mouth, requiring no water, and starts to work within an hour for many people. It’s important to note that results may vary, and some patients may experience nausea, indigestion and stomach pain.

More than its convenience, however, my patients no longer have to worry about the forecast and if they are going to have a good day or bad day when it comes to migraine.

I also recommend to people who think they have migraine to schedule an appointment with a healthcare professional. Getting an accurate diagnosis and the right treatment can make all the difference in managing migraine.

Nurtec ODT 75 mg orally disintegrating tablets is a prescription medicine that is used to treat migraine in adults. It is for the acute treatment of migraine attacks with or without aura and the preventive treatment of episodic migraine. Do not take if you are allergic to Nurtec ODT or any of its ingredients. The most common side effects were nausea (2.7%) and indigestion/stomach pain (2.4%). Please visit for full Prescribing Information, Patient Information and Important Safety Information.

US-RIMODT-2200495 05/04/2022