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Summertime triggers headaches for some

August 11, 2008 12:00:00 AM PDT
It's summertime, and for many people that means spending a lot of time outdoors. But all that sun exposure can trigger an experience that's anything but fun. For some people, summer can be a real headache.Whitney Lewis can't predict the weather, but it doesn't take much for her to know when the dog days of summer arrive.

"I've always had headaches. During the rest of the year, it's OK, not great, but I can tell when summer is coming back around with the heat and humidity," said Whitney Lewis, summertime headache sufferer.

For hot-weather headache sufferers like Whitney, the intensity and pain she feels on a sunny day can make doing simple activities downright unbearable.

"Sometimes it will just be an absolute pounding headache, otherwise it's just like a dulling pain," said Whitney.

Whitney's doctor is headache specialist Dr Larry Newman. He says the severity and frequency of headaches can increase during warm, humid months.

"Weather changes, so barometric pressure changes, we're getting lots of storms, so the heat, the humidity and then the rain that follows it are triggers of headaches," said Dr. Larry Newman, director of The Headache Institute, St. Luke's-Roosevelt Hospital in New York.

For everyone, but especially those who suffer from chronic headaches or migraines, a recent survey by the National Headache Foundation found 75 percent of those questioned reported being unable to participate in outdoor activities due to headaches caused by changes in altitude, weather or wind, in addition to stormy weather.

"Some of the summertime triggers can include things such as bright flickering sunlight, odors and perfumes from sunscreen, dietary triggers," said National Headache Foundation Executive Director Suzanne Simons.

Including nitrates found in some barbeque favorites: tannins found in alcoholic beverages and caffeine, if you overdo all those icy drinks. Also, dehydration can really deliver a knockout punch.

"If you're suffering from dehydration, it's important to make sure that you drink plenty of fluids. Sports drinks are rich in minerals and vitamins and those can help to re-hydrate you," said Suzanne Simons, executive director of the National Headache Foundation.

Dr. Newman says although it's difficult to prevent every seasonal attack, individuals can decrease the frequency and severity.

"There are a number of self-help steps. Try wearing a hat, they can wear an odorless sunscreen, they can limit the amount of alcohol they use. They can limit the amount of foods they know will trigger their headaches," said Dr. Newman.

Whitney always wears sunglasses to cut the glare. She's still trying to figure out her other triggers, but knows certain smells and humidity really bother her. By avoiding as many as she can, she's still able to catch some rays.

 

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