Brain & Spine

Can Air Pressure Changes Give You a Headache?

When the seasons change, some people tend to get headaches more frequently. Is there a medical reason for it or just a coincidence?

May. 6, 2024 4   min read

Black man suffering from painful head ache touching his temple with hand in a park

The shift from cooler seasons to warmer seasons brings many changes: more sunlight, more blooms and blossoms, and more time outside.

One of the changes that comes with the warmer weather is a change in barometric pressure. Barometric pressure – the weight of the air – rises when the weather is humid and falls when it is dry. We tend to notice this most often with humid heat or stormy weather, but there can be other changes too.

Some people say they experience headaches or sinus pain around the times when the seasons change. But is there evidence to suggest these changes in the weather are linked to headaches?

Does air pressure affect headaches?

The short answer to this question is yes. Changes in air pressure can cause pain inside some areas of the head, including your nasal and sinus passages.

When cold and warm air mix, the changes in air pressure affect everything around it. This is how storms are created – and how people are affected. Studies show these changes affect people with both migraines and headaches.

Headaches are common and can be triggered by a number of different factors. Migraines are a specific neurological condition caused by activated nerve fibers within the wall of blood vessels traveling in certain areas of the brain. This can lead to moderate to severe throbbing pain on one side of the head, along with other symptoms such as sensitivity to light and nausea or vomiting. They can last anywhere from four to 72 hours, and affect roughly 39 million people in the U.S., according to the American Migraine Foundation.

Research conducted on migraine patients suggests both small and large changes in barometric pressure have an effect on migraine pain.

“Many migraine patients who we follow in our clinic say weather is a significant headache trigger for them,” said Carolyn Zyloney, MD, a neurologist and headache specialist at our Unity at Ridgeway Campus in Greece. “Some of the weather-related factors that can influence headaches include barometric pressure, humidity, air temperature and exposure to bright sunlight.”

Treating and preventing air pressure headaches

There are ways to help with the pain being caused by these air pressure changes.

General lifestyle adjustments can help prevent the pain associated with both headaches and migraines. These include drinking more water, getting eight hours of good quality sleep, eating more plants, keeping track of weather changes, and getting regular physical activity.

For those experiencing headaches, taking medication such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen can help to lessen the pain. Wearing sunglasses or staying indoors more often can help too.

With migraines, anti-inflammatory medications are a good over-the-counter solution. Some providers might prescribe drugs such as triptans, antiemetics, or ergotamines to help reduce pain during a migraine episode.

Keeping track of what sets off a migraine episode can be helpful too. Try to think of triggers and write them down. Some of these might be:

  • Food and drink
  • Environment (sounds, air, weather, etc.)
  • Stress levels

“We offer consultations to determine if a patient's headaches are due to migraines, then suggest a strategy to help identify triggers for migraine headaches as well a treatment plan to alleviate the migraine-related symptoms," Dr. Zyloney said.

NEXT STEPS Find Relief From Your Constant Headaches

We understand that headaches, migraines, and facial pain can be debilitating and can affect your quality of life. If you have pain slowing you down, schedule a consultation today through Rochester Regional Health’s Headache & Facial Care Program.

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Carolyn E. Zyloney, MD
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