10 Simple Ways to Stay Migraine-Free This Winter!

Try one of these easy tips to outsmart cold-weather headaches.

Health Monitor Staff

If you suffer from migraines, you may dread the winter—and you’re not alone. In a recent survey by the National Headache Foundation, 75% of migraine sufferers cited the weather as a trigger. Here, some ways to get back to enjoying the season!

Monitor Your Vitamin D
A lack of sun in winter can cause levels of vitamin D to drop, and that can be a problem for Chronic Migraine sufferers. A study presented at the 50th Annual Meeting of the American Headache Society showed that nearly 42% of patients with Chronic Migraine were deficient in the vitamin. To make up for the shortfall, cook up D-rich foods like eggs, fish or fortified dairy products, or ask your healthcare provider about supplements.  

Invest in a Hat and Gloves
No doubt about it, cold weather is one of the top migraine triggers. Scientists believe it may have to do with the chilly weather causing blood vessels in the head and neck to constrict. Since you can’t avoid going outside for the entire season, the best way is to bundle up against the cold—particularly your extremities, where you lose most of your body heat—is by donning a hat and gloves.  

Don’t Forget the Scarf...
And make sure it covers your mouth and nose! If it’s extremely dry out, that will help make the air you’re breathing in more moist to fend off another common trigger: low humidity.  

Consider a Humidifier
Indoor heating systems and lower outdoor humidity can lead to dry conditions inside your home. Invest in a humidifier and aim for a healthy 35% to 50% humidity. Bonus: Maintaining a normal humidity level has been shown to reduce your likelihood of getting sick, which is especially important if you suffer from migraines.

Keep Your Sleep Schedule Regular
Getting a full night’s rest is especially important for migraine sufferers. Stick to a steady schedule and resist the urge to “sleep in,” even if it is darker in the morning and your bed feels extra cozy.

Wash Your Hands Often
Coming down with the sniffles can spark a migraine, which is why it’s a good idea to wash your hands frequently—it’s the No. 1 way to fend off a cold, according to the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention. Other ways are avoiding close contact with people you know are sick, not touching your face and getting enough rest.

Be Cautious With Soup
It’s one of the best wintertime meals, but canned broths and soup often contain MSG, a common migraine trigger. Be careful when reading labels, as well. Many soups and broths will say “No MSG!” on the front, but looking closely will reveal an asterisk noting the product still contains “naturally occurring MSG,” which can still cause a reaction in people who are extra-sensitive. The best way to avoid MSG is to make your own broths and soups from fresh ingredients.  

Get Moving
Aim for 30 minutes of exercise daily! Too cold out? Doing housework and walking at the mall count! A study found that when migraine sufferers did aerobic exercise for 40 minutes three times a week for three months, the frequency of attacks was reduced by 25% on average. Exercise can also reduce stress, both of which can help ward off migraines.  

Stop Drafts
It’s not just cold weather that can spark a migraine but a sudden shift in temperature—like you’d experience near a drafty area of your home. Closing up drafts (either with caulk, insulation or draft guards) will not only keep the temperature in your house steadier, it will also help lower your heating bill.

Drink More Water
Dehydration is a common migraine trigger, and is surprisingly more likely to strike in the colder months. That’s because with the outside air being drier, you lose moisture without realizing it. The Institute of Medicine recommends men drink about 13 cups of total beverages a day, and women about 9. If plain water isn’t your thing, herbal (non-caffeinated) teas or flavored seltzers will keep you hydrated.  

January 2014