5 Summertime Migraine Triggers to Avoid

From staying hydrated to wearing proper sun protection, try these tips for avoiding migraines all summer long.

Being out in the sun without proper skin protection can result in a sunburn, which can also trigger a migraine (as well as increase the risk of skin cancer).

With warm weather and plenty of activities to add to a social calendar, the summer months can be a lot of fun. But for people who experience migraines, the summer months can also present a number of challenges.

As with many aspects of migraine management, it helps to know what to look out for. Keep reading for a look at potential summertime migraine triggers and how to avoid them.

Drink plenty of fluids

Hot weather, more time in the sun, and outdoor activities can mean your body requires more hydration. You’ll want to drink plenty of water and other fluids throughout the day, especially on days when you’re spending time outside, when the temperature is high, and if you’re engaging in any kind of sport or other activity.

  • Carry a refillable water bottle with you and don’t wait until you are thirsty to start drinking.
  • Avoid sugary drinks and instead try flavoring water with fruit or herbs (lemon, mint, and strawberry are good options).
  • Coffee and tea are also hydrating, though they do have a diuretic effect.
  • When exercising, consume a drink that contains electrolytes and carbohydrates.
  • Limit the number of alcoholic beverages you consume. Alcohol can be a trigger on its own, and it will also contribute to dehydration.

Pay attention to your sleep schedule

Getting too little sleep or too little quality sleep can trigger a migraine. For many people, sleep schedules shift during the summer months, for a variety of reasons. More hours of daylight can mean staying up later or waking earlier. Hotter temperatures can make it more difficult to fall asleep or stay asleep. Traveling for vacation or day trips can be a fun break in routine but can also mean a change in sleep habits.

  • Stay as consistent as possible with habits that promote healthy sleep and prevent headaches—consistent sleep hours, exercise, eating well, avoiding alcohol, limiting screen time.
  • Set aside dedicated time to relax and unwind, especially after busy days and even after late nights. Consider quiet activities like reading, breathing exercises, and bathing.
  • Check the side effects of any medications you are taking. Medications for migraines (as well as medications for other conditions) can interfere with sleep. If you suspect a medication may be interfering with your sleep, talk to your healthcare provider.

Wear proper sun protection

Exposure to bright light, including sunlight, can be a migraine trigger. Too much time in the sun—especially if exercising or being physically active—can make a person more likely to become dehydrated. Being out in the sun without proper skin protection can result in a sunburn, which can also trigger a migraine (as well as increase the risk of skin cancer).

  • Wear sunglasses that provide adequate protection against glare and ultraviolet (UV) rays. Polarized lenses are designed to reduce glare.
  • Wear a broad-brimmed hat or seek shade during peak hours of direct sunlight. For example, sitting under a beach umbrella.
  • Wear sunscreen and clothing with UV protection to avoid sunburn.
  • Check your medications. Some medications can make the skin more sensitive to sun exposure.

Pay attention to air quality

Though summer invites time outside, it can also be a season where the air quality is lower. Allergens like tree and grass pollen, smoke from wildfires, and air pollution (which is often worse in hot weather) can trigger headaches.

  • Check the weather and air quality and plan your day accordingly. For example, by running errands earlier in the day instead of in the evening, when pollen counts are higher.
  • Stay indoors as much as possible and keep windows closed when air quality is low. If you need to go outside, consider wearing an N95 mask.
  • Also pay attention to the air quality in your immediate surroundings. Strong odors and smoke from suntan lotions, bug sprays, barbecue, and campfires can all act as triggers.

Check the weather forecast

Many people who experience migraines report that episodes of symptoms are associated with changes in weather. While research has not been able to fully explain this association, weather is another factor worth paying attention to, especially if you’ve noticed any association between changes in the weather and changes in your migraine symptoms.

It’s also a good reminder that managing migraines means being proactive. You cannot control many factors that can contribute to migraines, but you can have a plan ready for when a migraine occurs.

In addition to being a great season for getting outdoors and spending time with friends, summer can also be a great season to catch up on healthcare appointments, start or resume a headache journal, and make small lifestyle changes that can help you better manage migraines.

Article sources open article sources

Jason Howard.  Mayo Clinic Minute: Why summer weather can trigger migraines. Mayo Clinic News Network. August 12, 2020.
American Migraine Foundation. Tips for Avoiding Summer Migraines and Headaches. 
Mayo Clinic Diet. How to stay hydrated over the summer.
Sandy Cohen. How to stay hydrated in the summer heat. UCLA Health. June 6, 2022.
Cynthia Weiss. Mayo Clinic Q and A: What to drink to stay hydrated. Mayo Clinic News Network. July 14, 2020.
American Migraine Foundation. Sleep Disorders and Headaches. 
NIH MedlinePlus Magains. 10 common migraine triggers and how to cope with them. September 28, 2022.
American Migraine Foundation. Headache Hygiene - What Is It?
Mayo Clinic. Migraines: Simple steps to head off the pain.
Greg Richter. Seven Ways You Are Hurting Your Sleep This Summer. Penn Medicine. August 14, 2018.
American Migraine Foundation. Sleep, Insomnia, and Migraine.
Marco A. Pescador Ruschel and Orlando De Jesus. Migraine Headache. StatePearls. February 13, 2023.
Kierstan Boyd and David Turbert. What Are Polarized Lenses For? American Academy of Ophthalmology. June 15, 2022.
U.S. Food & Drug Administration. The Sun and Your Medicine.
Kelsey Geesler. Why Climate Change Might Be Affecting Your Headaches. Penn Medicine News. May 9, 2023.
American College of Allergy, Asthma, & Immunology. Seasonal Allergies.
UCAR Center for Science Education. How Weather Affects Air Quality.
Washington State Department of Health. Wildfire Smoke and Face Masks.
Jan Hoffmann, Tonio Schirra, et al. The influence of weather on migraine – are migraine attacks predictable? Annals of Clinical and Translational Neurology, 2015. Vol. 2, No. 1.

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