Does Pollution Cause Migraine Attacks?

pollutionWhat is migraine?

Migraine is a complex disorder marked by severe and persistent headaches, nausea, vomiting, and sensitivity to light and sound. A migraine assault usually lasts between 4 and 72 hours.

Aura is a more severe symptom that affects some people and is characterized by vision issues such as light flashes or blind spots. Auras can also be coupled with other symptoms like tingling or weakness/numbness on one side of the face or body, difficulty speaking, and involuntary jerking.

Migraine attacks can be triggered by various factors, including stress, pollution, hormonal changes, and particular foods. Some migraine sufferers report that environmental factors, such as air quality, have an impact on their symptoms. Identifying migraine triggers can be a beneficial strategy to reduce the disruptive nature of the sickness for people who suffer from migraine.

In this article, we look at how pollution plays a role in migraines, including how it might cause attacks and what people can do to avoid them.

Air pollution and migraine attacks

With a growing percentage of the world’s population living in cities, the consequences of air pollution on human health, particularly migraine attacks, have piqued curiosity. Pollution’s impact in migraine is less obvious than it is in other aspects of health, such as heart and lung illness.

air pollutionHigher levels of specific types of air pollutants – microscopic particles of chemicals called particulate matter — were linked to an increase in the number of persons seeking medical treatment for migraine, according to studies conducted in Taiwan and South Korea.

However, on cold weather days, the Taiwanese study discovered no link between air particulate matter levels and migraine. The relationship between migraine risk and particulate matter levels was also decreased on days with low temperatures, according to the South Korean study.

In contrast, a Boston-based study discovered that greater levels of air pollution were linked to a higher risk of migraine headaches only during the colder months, from October to March.

However, rather than particle matter, this study focused on the link between migraine and traffic-related gaseous pollutants such as carbon monoxide and ozone. These findings imply that, while air pollution can cause migraines, the effect is likely to be dependent on both the type of pollution and the temperature of the air. The researchers did not investigate the reason of the temperature effects, but they believe they are linked to other factors that raise the risk of migraine attacks, such as humidity or air pressure.

Other environmental migraine triggers

An environmental trigger can be almost anything. Changes in a person’s environment, on the other hand, are unknown to cause a migraine attack. The following are some of the most common triggers:

  • Temperature variations, intense heat and cold, high humidity, dry or dusty conditions, barometric pressure shifts, wind, and storms.
  • Food, perfume, paint, bleach, and chemicals emit odors.
  • Sounds that are extremely loud.
  • Smoke from cigarettes, cigars, vehicle fumes, and fires pollute the air.
  • Fluorescent lights, flashing lights, and computer screens
  • Flying, jet lag, or motion.
  • Patterns such as stripes, checkerboards, or zigzag lines can be seen.

According to studies, migraine sufferers have an average of seven triggers, many of which are environmental. Strong odors are a migraine trigger for 7 out of 10 persons. Half of migraine sufferers say they react to at least one weather change.

Managing environmental triggers

If you’re aware of your triggers, it’s a good idea to have a few items on hand when you’re out in public, such as:

  • Sunglasses or eyeglasses that block out glare or specific wavelengths of light.
  • Earplugs.
  • Eye mask.

Some lifestyle changes may also assist you in avoiding some environmental triggers, such as:

  • Extra rest is recommended before and after travel, particularly if you are traveling across time zones.
  • Informing friends and coworkers about your sensitivity to strong odors.
  • Maintaining a darker atmosphere in your home.
  • Install green light bulbs, which have been proved to reduce migraine symptoms.


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