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Cooler Weather's Here: Will It Trigger Your Migraine?

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Cooler Weather's Here: Will It Trigger Your Migraine?

Many people say that autumn is their favorite season, with its colorful foliage, refreshingly cooler weather and, of course, pumpkin-spice lattes. Right behind it comes winter, with gingerbread, cozy snuggling around the fireplace, and a dose (or two...or three) of holiday cheer. 

There are many pleasant aspects to the cool-weather season. But for some people, there can also be a downside: migraine.

Do you feel as if you experience more migraine headaches when the seasons change? You could be right. Many people with migraines say that seasonal shifts play a part in causing them, according to the American Migraine Foundation (AMF). 

But it’s unclear just how much impact these seasonal changes actually have. And effects can vary from person to person.

Let’s look at some common aspects of fall and winter that may contribute to head pain:

Changing Weather and Cold Temperatures

Surprisingly few scientific studies have found a connection between weather changes and migraine. A study published in the journal Cephalalgia concluded that the impact of weather changes on migraine was "small and questionable." 

Some people with migraine seem to be sensitive to certain seasonal weather patterns but not others — for example, you may experience migraine when fall begins, yet remain pain-free in the spring. Others with migraines are totally unaffected by seasonal weather shifts.

If your migraine patterns feel as if they’re affected by fall or winter each year, atmospheric changes — specifically barometric pressure — may be a trigger, says the AMF. As seasons change, barometric pressure fluctuates, causing air in your sinuses to shift — and that shift can trigger head pain. Snowstorms particularly can affect barometric pressure and provoke head pain.

And colder conditions alone may be enough to trigger migraine in some people, particularly as rapidly falling temperatures dilate blood vessels in the brain. 

Some people with migraine seem to be sensitive to certain seasonal weather patterns but not others — for example, you may experience migraine when fall begins, yet remain pain-free in the spring. Others with migraines are totally unaffected by seasonal weather shifts.

Allergies & Other Irritants

Besides temperature and barometric pressure, a number of other potential triggers can also cause migraine in fall and winter, including allergies, holiday stress, and disrupted sleep patterns. 

A study published in Acta Neurologica Belgica found that the incidence of migraines appears higher in people sensitive to environmental allergens like pollen. At the beginning of fall, ragweed and mold allergies can be especially prevalent, according to Amber Specialty Pharmacy; for some, that leads to head pain.

Cooler weather also brings increased use of wood-burning fireplaces. Exposure to particles released in wood smoke — from your own fireplace or even a neighbor’s — may trigger headache pain (and can irritate eyes, sinuses, and lungs as well). 

Other Environmental Factors

Another trigger for fall/winter migraine pain can be extra-dry indoor air, especially in overly heated buildings. This can potentially lead to dehydration and subsequently migraine, says the AMF. Spending too much time in excessively windy conditions — working outdoors or spending time on the ski slopes, for example — can be dehydrating as well.

Also, in fall and winter, as people spend more time indoors in close quarters with others, they’re more likely to share cold germs — and the common cold can be another migraine trigger.

Disrupted sleep patterns can contribute, too. As days grow “shorter” and we adjust the clocks, your sleep schedule may become temporarily inconsistent, and affected sleep patterns can give you a migraine.

Managing Fall and Winter Migraine

You can't control the weather, of course. But here are some tips to help you stay ahead of some of these other migraine triggers during the cooler months: 

  • Steer clear of germs that cause illness: When possible, try to avoid excessive contact with people who are sick with a cold. Wash your hands often. Get your flu shot every fall.
  • Keep your home at a steady temperature and humidity: Set your thermostat for comfortable, not excessive, warmth. Seal drafts to keep temperature consistent, and consider using a humidifier to keep the air in your home at a comfortable moisture level during winter. 
  • Stay hydrated: If you find you must spend time in a hot, dry building in the wintertime, be mindful to drink more water. Be careful about imbibing too much “holiday cheer” — alcohol is dehydrating and, combined with indoor heat, can be fertile ground for a migraine to develop.
  • Be consistent: Fluctuations in your daily schedule or habits can trigger migraines. Stick to a regular eating and sleeping schedule throughout the fall and winter — avoid skipping meals and get adequate, restful sleep.
  • Know your unique migraine triggers. Most important, keep a migraine diary to help you track and avoid your cool-weather-related triggers. Understanding what causes your migraines, whatever the season, can be key to finding the most effective way to control them.

‍When It’s Time to Seek Help 

Everyone’s experience with migraine is unique to them. Mable’s worldwide team of leading migraine experts focuses on bringing you positive change, through a DNA-guided treatment program that gives you a clearer picture of why and how your migraines occur, based on your genetics and the latest evidence and clinical practice. 

Headache specialists help tailor your migraine treatment plan specifically to you, then work with you to help reduce the frequency and severity of your migraine and return you to the lifestyle you love, whatever the season. 

Mable could be the right approach for you. Take our 2-minute quiz and find out.


  1. American Migraine Foundation. Weather and Migraine. https://americanmigrainefoundation.org/resource-library/weather-and-migraine/ 
  2. NIH/National Library of Medicine. Seasonal variation in migraine.  Alstadhaug KB, Salvesen R, Bekkelund SI. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/16162258/
  3. Springer Nature. Acta Neurologica Belgica. Allergens might trigger migraine attacks. Bektas, H., Karabulut, H., Doganay, B. et al. https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s13760-016-0645-y
  4. Summit Health. Can the Cold Affect My Headaches? https://www.summithealth.com/health-wellness/can-cold-affect-my-headaches
  5. Amber Specialty Pharmacy. Managing Your Migraines This Fall. https://www.amberpharmacy.com/managing-your-migraines-this-fall/ 
  6. SFGate.com. Wood-Burning Fireplace Breathing Hazards. https://homeguides.sfgate.com/woodburning-fireplace-breathing-hazards-68886.html
  7. American Migraine Foundation. Seasonal Migraine Triggers. https://americanmigrainefoundation.org/resource-library/seasonal-migraine-triggers/ 
  8. Mable. https://trymable.com
  9. Mable Migraine Relief Quiz. https://www.trymable.com/quiz/dna

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Updated on
October 17, 2022
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