Sleuthing the Connection Between Migraine Episodes and Weather

WeatherSpark is a super-easy way to investigate the role weather plays in triggering your migraine episodes. Using current and historical data from a variety of national and international sources, WeatherSpark creates clear, detailed graphs based on the weather conditions you choose. Options include amount of sunshine, amount of cloud cover, precipitation type and amount, pressure, humidity, and more. For any of these factors, you can get data from specific days, months or years, or an average over multiple years. And, my favorite feature, three locations can be compared simultaneously.

Words are inadequate to describe the awesomeness of WeatherSpark. Get thee to the site and check out the beautiful graphs for yourself!


Cloudy Weather & Rain a Migraine Trigger

Clouds equal migraines for me, it’s that simple. In my six years in Seattle, I refused to recognize that I felt better when I was visiting Phoenix or vacationing at a sunny destination, always thinking it was because I took medication while traveling or forced myself to do more than I did at home. Moving to Boston in 2009, where the weather changes regularly, and keeping a headache diary forced me to admit the connection between clouds and the severity of my migraines.

In the 14 months I lived in Boston, a “good day” meant I had between one and three hours of feeling well enough to be off the couch. On average, I got this respite twice a month. In the “good” time, I’d go to the farmers’ market, get groceries or, occasionally, treat myself to a trip to the arboretum. Sometimes I’d do housework with glee (cleaning and pleasure had, until last year, been mutually exclusive). Rarely was I able to make a doctor’s appointment on my own. Hart would have to leave work to take me. Running errands was an epic accomplishment. Hell, shaving my legs was nearly as exciting as a night on the town (an impossibility for at least five years.) Except for the five Dave Matthews Band and six Phish shows, which I absolutely refuse to miss because they are so restorative, I had no life.

The best news I’ve had in 10 years is that I’ve finally found an effective treatment. Hart and I are moving to Phoenix. To all of you whose migraines are triggered by weather, I’m sorry to say that my remedy is so extreme. He and I are fortunate to have grown up there. Our friends and family are there. Our roots are there.

Wait, I should say they are here. I’ve effectively moved, living at my mom’s house for the last three weeks. Hart will visit in a couple weeks, then join me at the end of January. To make this move happen, Hart will be leaving his dream job. He’ll stay with the same company, but his role won’t be the same. While we’d both rather this not be the case, the prospect of getting a life (and his wife!) back far outweighs the cost.

My solution is nowhere near perfect. I’m far from migraine-free in Phoenix and the background headache is ever-present. Even with the sky a brilliant blue, I still have a migraine every day. But each migraine is a distinct episode. That is, they end. Whereas I’m used to one migraine running into another, happy when I have even an hour-long break, the ones I have in Phoenix often only last six hours. Sometimes a Midrin, a naproxen and a nap will reduce the duration to two hours. I leave the house nearly every day.

Yes, that’s right, I leave the house nearly every day. I’m not exaggerating to say it feels like a miracle.


Trip to Ikea Without a Meltdown or Migraine!

Fluorescent lights, new furniture smells, swarms of shoppers wandering without regard to others, groups enraptured by the store’s wonders and standing in the walkway, the inability to get through the store without walking the predefined path. The joys of Ikea. Despite these obstacles, I like the place.

It’s just that I have a meltdown nearly every time I shop at Ikea. The plethora of migraine triggers and my inability to regulate time or make decisions while I’m there add to the aforementioned obstacles.

I strategize before each Ikea excursion. I need:

  • To eat enough ahead of time to sustain me
  • Caffeine, but not too much
  • A large, full water bottle
  • Sunglasses
  • To go when the store opens
  • Hart, to keep me on track (although this often backfires as he is mesmerized by the possibilities)

I usually don’t follow my guidelines. This was no exception. I’d eaten, but was hungry by the time I parked. I ordered three shots in my latte instead of the usual two. My large water bottle was dirty, so I had to settle for the 14 ouncer. The sunglasses spent more time on top of my head than on my face. I arrived an hour after the store opened. Hart was at work.

I kind of stuck with the plan and it seems to have worked. No shaking, fuming or tears. No migraine. I did however, buy more curtains than I have windows to cover. The kicker is that I ran an hour of errands afterward, drove the 30 minutes home and rested for another 30; then I wrote for two hours before picking Hart up.

The day after wasn’t even too bad. My head was bad in the morning, but no other symptoms were present. I met Hart for lunch and ran some errands. I felt icky and headachy in the afternoon, so I rested for a bit between doing things around the house.

It was a big accomplishment. I feel like I can tackle the trip to return the extra curtains. If I adhere to my strategy even better, I might achieve a greater level of accomplishment.


National Headache Foundation Answers Frequently Asked Questions

In one comprehensive page, the National Headache Foundation responds to common questions about migraine as well as tension-type, cluster, sinus, rebound headaches. The short answers include links to comprehensive information. Questions include:

  • Does weather affect migraines?
  • What are the triptans?
  • What alternative therapies are used to treat migraine?
  • What is biofeedback?
  • Are headaches hereditary?
  • What type of doctor should I see to diagnose and treat my headache?


Rantings on Perfume, Scented Hair Products and Paris

REI employees shouldn’t be allowed to wear perfume. I’d prefer if no one in retail wore perfume, but I’ll complain about REI because I was there this morning. Doesn’t perfume contradict the values of the nature-oriented store?

I was at REI in the first place for quick-dry travel pants. The perfect pants that I scored at Goodwill last week must have been soaked in perfume, which I didn’t smell at the store. Washing and hanging them outside to dry once didn’t do the trick. Washing them after they’d been tightly sealed in a plastic bag with baking soda for five days didn’t work either. How can someone wear so much perfume that two washings can’t make a dent in the scent?

I had to give up on the thrift store pants. My new pants don’t smell. They are much more attractive and handier for travel. They also cost 10 times as much. Like with the cellphone, I’ve been thwarted at my attempt to save money.

My next complaint: Deodorants are scented for good reason (although they’re one of the few products that are available unscented). Even lotion I can understand. Hair products have no excuse. Not only are they perfumed, the scents are STRONG. Why are they scented to begin with? To cover up how the ingredients smell? Yes, I got my hair cut today. Yes, I washed the product out immediately after getting home. Yes, I got a migraine.

I can’t believe how sensitive to smells I’ve become. Cinnamon and rose have triggered my headaches forever, but they are only a small part of my odor triggers now. It has gotten so bad that I might have to strike Paris off my list of places to travel.