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Air Cycling Through Cooling & Heating Ducts a Migraine Trigger

I’d like you to think I’ve been absent from the blog because I’ve felt so great that I’ve been living it up. Actually, I’ve continued to feel pretty crappy since right before Christmas. There’s always an excuse. In early January was the stomach bug that caused horrendous nausea every time I ate, then triggered an equally bad migraine. Right after I recovered from that, my mom dislocated her shoulder and broke her humerus. Then Hart and I moved into the house…. You get the point. Unfortunately, the migraines continued even after the stress settled. Until Hart and I made a brilliant connection — our AC/heating ducts are making my migraines worse.

We turned off the heat when our roof was patched last week to make sure no chemicals or odors entered the house. I had a good day after the first night with it off, though I need to see a pattern before I jump to conclusions. I forgot to turn the heat back on and the good days began piling up. I’d get pretty tired for a couple hours every afternoon, perhaps because I was doing so much, but few migraines followed (and they were mild if they did). The night we ran the heat, I had a migraine in the night and was headachey and blechy the next day. We turned the heat off again for the next night and voila, I awoke feeling better!

As always, “feeling better” doesn’t mean migraine-free, nor does it mean I’m operating with full energy. Still, I don’t spend much extra time in bed, afternoon naps generally abort oncoming migraines, and the migraines I do have are relatively mild. This all adds up to going out for fun excursions and errands, settling into my new house, and cooking up a storm.

This discovery coincided with getting the results of an energy audit. Not surprisingly, our 1945 house has many gaps in the ducts and the attic has lots of dust and broken-down insulation. The heat runs and pulls all that yuck into the air. Because I’m so sensitive to environmental triggers, Hart and I already budgeted to seal the ducts and use chemical-free products on any household improvements. Soon we will seal the ducts with formaldehyde-, PVC- and VOC-free products, then have them cleaned. I hope, hope, hope that does the trick. I can go without heat, but a Phoenix summer is impossible without air conditioning.

Dirty ducts are a fuzzy sort of trigger. Is whatever is in the air the trigger or does it stir up allergies, which then trigger the migraines? The latter is most logical, but why don’t I have allergy symptoms? As always, I have many more questions than answers. What I’m sure of is that I haven’t had a raging migraine in 10 days. That’s enough of an answer for now.

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Online Tool to Assess What Kind of Headaches You Have

Migraine, tension-type, sinus, cluster. . . . You know what your headache feels like and the other symptoms you have. Seems like finding a diagnosis would be easy, but it can be quite complicated. Consider these factors:

Headache Central, an educational site sponsored by the Michigan Headache Treatment Network, has a tool to help classify your headaches in medical terms. The online program asks questions about your headaches, determining which questions to ask based on your previous responses. After you’ve answered all the questions, you’re given a page with your responses and possible diagnoses summarized in a doctor-friendly format to print and take to your next appointment.

The program is not intended for you to diagnose yourself but to provide your doctor with a more complete view of what you’re experiencing. Of course, many readers will use the information to guide further online research. Arriving at your doctor’s office well-informed is helpful; so is being open to what they have to say. Think of the headache classification tool a starting point from which your doc can ask you relevant questions (and vice versa) to flesh out your diagnosis and find the appropriate treatment for you.

FYI: The program doesn’t work in Firefox.