How Weather Changes and Storms Can Trigger Headaches

The Science Behind Weather-Triggered Headaches

Getty Images/Jeff Hunter.

For most of us, a day of thunderstorms on a summer Saturday means staying inside with a cup of tea and a good movie. For others though, a thunderstorm is a brutal trigger for a headache.

Let's read about the science behind how a thunderstorm and other weather-related changes, may precipitate head pain.

How Weather is Reported as a Common Headache Trigger

One 2007 study in Cephalalgia examined over 1200 patients diagnosed with migraine.

Weather was identified as the fourth most frequent trigger, occurring in approximately 50 percent of patients.

In another study, in The Journal of Headache and Pain, of 120 people with either migraines or tension headaches, weather was described as the most common trigger.

What Weather-Related Factors Actually Trigger Headaches?

Several weather-related factors have been evaluated as potential triggers for headaches, especially migraines. These include:

• Temperature Changes

• Humidity

• Sunlight

• Wind Speed

• Dew Point

But what about storms in particular? Many of us can recall plugging along at work or in our homes on a gloomy, damp day with a nagging headache. Was it triggered by that morning thunderstorm? Many of us claim it was.

Do Storms Trigger Headaches?

It's not unusual to hear someone cite a storm as a trigger for their head pain, whether their headaches are migraines, tension headaches, or sinus headaches.

During a storm, cold and warm air collide, creating an extreme difference in barometric (or air) pressure. This creates the elements of a thunderstorm, like wind and rain. The change in barometric pressure may be what triggers your headache.

In addition, with a thunderstorm comes lightning. Sferics, which are electromagnetic impulses produced by lightning, may also trigger migraines.

More on Barometric Pressure and Headaches

Regarding barometric pressure, one 2011 study in Internal Medicine examined a small number of people with migraines living in Japan. The participants kept a headache diary for one year. Half of the participants reported low barometric pressure as a migraine trigger. Additionally, results revealed that half of the participants had more frequent headaches the day following a drop in barometric pressure.

On the other hand, another study in Headache examined over 900 patients with migraines and did not find a link between migraine attacks and falls in barometric pressure.

What Does This Mean for Me?

Overall, there is not great evidence or science behind the triggering effect of storms on headaches. Nevertheless, listen to your gut. If storms consistently trigger your headaches, being prepared for managing your headache when rain clouds are brewing can only serve to help you in the end.

If you do suffer from storm-triggered headaches, there is not much you can do to escape this phenomenon.

Instead, coping with the trigger is your best option.

Keep a headache diary and review it with your doctor who may help you form a plan to prevent or lessen your attack the next time a storm approaches. It would also be beneficial to discuss over-the-counter medications or possibly a prescription medication with your doctor to help you cope with a storm-triggered headache.


Cull RE. Barometric pressure and other factors in migraine. Headache. 1981;21:102-104.

Friedman DI. De Ver Dye T. Migraine and the Environment. Headache. 2009 Jun;49(6):941-52.

Kelman L. The triggers or precipitants of the acute migraine attack. Cephalgia. 2007;27:394-402.

Kimoto K, Aiba S, Takashima R, Suzuki K, Takekawa H, Watanabe Y, Tatsumoto M, Hirata K. Influence of barometric pressure in patients with migraine headache. Intern Med. 2011;50(18):1923-8.

Wöber C, Holzhammer J, Zeitlhofer J, Wessely P, Wöber-Bingöl C. Trigger factors of migraine and tension-type headache: Experience and knowledge of the patients. J Headache Pain. 2006;7:188-195.

Continue Reading