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Do weather changes cause headaches?

Suffer from headaches?  It could be the weather, according to a new study.

"There are a lot of potential triggers of headache. …[weather] is something for clinicians to consider in evaluating what each person's triggers are," says Kenneth Mukumal, an internist at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston and lead author of the research published  this week in Neurology.

Mukamal and his colleagues studied more than 7,000 Boston-area patients diagnosed with headaches at the Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center emergency room between May 2000 and December 2007. To determine if weather played a role, they scoured National Weather Service data on fluctuations in temperature, humidity, and barometric pressure that occurred within 72 hours of each patient's ER visit.

Their findings: headache complaints increased along with rises in temperature, be it in the frigid winter or the broiling summer months. According to the study, the risk of getting a headache jumped by an average of 7.5 percent with every nine-degree Fahrenheit (five-degree Celsius) increase during the 24 hours preceding a patient's ER visit.

The risk also increased by an average of 6 percent with every .20 inch (5 millimeter) drop in barometric pressure that occurred in the 48 to 72 hours preceding a patient's ER visit. Changes in humidity appeared to have no effect.

Mukamal says researchers aren't sure why temp hikes and barometric dips may play a role. But he speculates that upswings in temperature may cause blood pressure to dip (impairing the brain's ability to regulate blood flow) whereas sudden drops in barometric pressure may exacerbate problems caused when sinuses become clogged with mucus trapping air inside of them.

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