Chicago, IL – March 10, 2008 – Can headache sufferers actually predict the weather? According to a recent survey by the National Headache Foundation (NHF), headache sufferers may have a knack for anticipating fickle spring weather as 69% of respondents reported weather or barometric pressure changes as a headache trigger. While these predictions may or may not be accurate, the survey did accurately report headache sufferer’s lifestyle choices as 35% of headache sufferers have restricted travel because of headaches and 75% have been unable to participate in outdoor activities due to headaches caused by environmental triggers such as changes in altitude, weather, and high winds.
Most headache sufferers have learned from experience how certain environmental factors play a role in triggering their own headaches. While factors like weather and altitude are well beyond human control, the good news is that people do have control over other environmental headache triggers. Considerate co-workers may want to think twice before liberally applying their daily dose of designer fragrance as 64% of respondents reported intense smells and odors as a headache trigger. As a result, 60% of respondents stopped wearing perfume or keep clear of the fragrance department in stores in order to avoid a potential headache.
“Understanding how your nervous system responds to different environmental factors that can trigger headache is the first step to preventing these headaches. Once you identify your personal headache triggers you can take the necessary steps to modify them, such as avoiding irritating smoke exposure by dining at non-smoking restaurants or limiting time spent outdoors on inclement days. In addition, you can employ protective strategies such as biofeedback, exercise, or massage at times when you are at risk for headache.
If your headaches are out of your control, it is important that you talk to your healthcare provider about other options for prevention and treatment,” said Dr. Roger Cady, Vice President of the National Headache Foundation.
Additional reported environmental triggers include:
• 56% of respondents reported headaches triggered by bright or flickering lights
• 40% of respondents reported limiting their computer use to avoid headaches
• 40% of respondents reported headaches triggered by loud noises
• 53% of respondents reported avoiding loud music concerts due to headaches
• 33% of respondents reported headaches associated with mold allergies
The increasing popularity of smoking bans across the country may also prove to benefit headache sufferers as 52% reported smoke as an environmental trigger for headaches. A ban on smoking in traditionally smoke-filled establishments such as restaurants, bars, and clubs would favor the 73% of headache sufferers who reportedly limit or avoid time spent at such places.
NHF Tips to Understanding Environmental Headache Triggers:
• Understand your own sensitivities; be aware of the external influences you cannot control like fluctuations in air pressure and weather and your reactions to such changes.
• Be proactive in dealing with factors you can control. Avoid wearing perfume and ask others close to you to be mindful of your sensitivity.
• Know if elements like smoke or loud noises trigger your headaches and avoid putting yourself in these types of environments.
• Avoid loud concert music or wear earplugs.
• Take frequent breaks when using the computer, or use a non-glare screen.
• Get help. Discuss your headaches with your healthcare provider.
Nearly 30 million Americans suffer from migraine, which is most commonly experienced between the ages of 15 and 55. Seventy to eighty percent of sufferers have a family history of migraine. Less than half of all migraine sufferers have received a diagnosis of migraine from their healthcare provider. Migraine is often misdiagnosed as sinus or tension-type headache.
ABOUT THE NATIONAL HEADACHE FOUNDATION
The National Headache Foundation, founded in 1970, is a non-profit organization which exists to enhance the healthcare of headache sufferers. It is a source of help to sufferers’ families, physicians who treat headache sufferers, allied healthcare professionals and to the public. The NHF accomplishes its mission by providing educational and informational resources, supporting headache research and advocating for the understanding of headache as a legitimate neurobiological disease.
Interviews with headache specialists are available upon request.
For more information on headache causes and treatments, visit www.headaches.org or call 1-888-NHF-5552 (M-F. 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. CT).
Suzanne E. Simons
National Headache Foundation
(215) 238-8500, ext. 1142