Summers are the bane of my existence. I know it is supposed to be the best time of the year when you hike, camp, have picnics, swim at the beach, and do everything outdoorsy. For me, it is the time of the year I fuse with my bed, and end up feeling more isolated than ever. That’s another thing that migraine takes from you.
Heat is a trigger for more than half of us living with frequent headaches and migraine. Considering that we all lost over a year to the pandemic, I am motivated to helping others like me enjoy being outdoors again, and make the most of the summer.
Why Do You Get Summer Migraine
A 2009 Harvard research study found that for every 9°F increase in temperature, there’s 7.5% increase in risk of headache severe enough to land you in the emergency room. So what really happens in summer?
1. You get dehydrated
You lose a lot of water and electrolytes every day when you breathe, sweat and pee. The heat and humidity in summer can dehydrate you quicker than you realize. And you know how bad those dehydration headaches can be. In general, people with migraine need at least 1.5 liter more than the normal daily water intake. If you work out, that can lead to more dehydration.
2. Sunny days mean lower melatonin
Frequency of migraine attacks increase during summer. If anything my life experience has proven that both intensity and frequency get worse every summer. Research says that the increased light intensity during the hotter months of the year leads to lower melatonin levels in the body which makes us more sensitive to light (and also makes it difficult to fall asleep).
3. You are a human barometer
Even the smallest changes in the atmospheric pressure triggers headaches. People with migraine know that a storm is coming even without checking the weather channel. There are pressure fluctuations on the hottest days which impacts the serotonin levels in the body, triggering migraine attacks.
How You Can Manage Summer Migraine
Always have a bottle water near you. You’d need more than your body in water during summer, and a little extra if you workout, drink alcohol or coffee.
2. Exercise indoors
Whatever your workout routine is, move it to a place with shade and some cooling. If you run, walk or hike, do it at dawn or late in the evening when the sun is not glaring at you.
3. Plan your outdoor activities
Start with the weather app. Pick days when the temperature, humidity and UV index is lower. Watch out for the pressure too. Pick activities that are not too strenuous. Make sure there is a place indoors (like a restaurant or mall or even your car) where you can cool off or rest in case you begin to feel any symptoms. Carry your migraine arsenal everywhere.
4. Add to your supplements
We talked about melatonin levels. You may not get enough sleep when there’s low melatonin in your body. Pick up a bottle at your local drug store. You can start at the lowest dosage. Magnesium helps prevent headaches and can also reduce the pain when the symptoms creep up on you. Always keep some in your purse.
5. Protect your eyes (and your head)
Anything bright can trigger migraine. Wear dark shades, or migraine glasses like Migraine Shields or Avulux, or even FL-41 lenses so summer is lighter on your eyes. Make sure you have a big sun hat (even if it is not stylish).
6. Enjoy migraine-friendly food
Food is one of the biggest triggers and the easiest to control. Make a list of your triggers. Always mention your allergies (or sensitivities) while placing an order. Google the menu before you choose to walk in to dine. And just remember to eat every two hours, and every meal on time.
7. Pack your migraine arsenal
Whether it is a vacation or a trip to the beach, make sure that you pack all your migraine essentials including pain meds, magnesium, salve, CBD, ice hats (in an ice box, of course), spritzer, dark eye mask, noise cancelling headphones, umbrella, hat, migraine shades, water, insurance information, health card and everything that helps you manage the attack.
Relax, cool off with some lemonade (with a little ginger and turmeric), and enjoy this summer. You deserve it!