The Weather May Be Causing Your Tension Headaches—Here's How to Deal

How to Prevent Tension Headaches
Photo: Caroline Tompkins/Getty Images

You know how Karen Smith (played by Amanda Seyfried) of Mean Girls has the “superpower” of being able to predict the weather by feeling her breasts? Well, I have a similar situation—except it’s not quite as flirty and it causes me intense physical pain. For the past six years, I’ve struggled with barometric pressure headaches triggered by weather changes. And it’s actually a pretty common issue.

Seemingly out of the blue, I started getting excruciating headaches just above my left eye. Advil—my usual go-to for head pain—didn’t help at all. Nor did steaming my face, resting, or drinking tons of water. My headaches in the past were caused by fevers or sinus pressure. This was different, and I couldn’t figure it out. When I looked up “causes of migraines,” the symptoms didn’t seem to check out: I wasn’t sensitive to light, I wasn’t dizzy, and I wasn’t having blurred vision. But it was painful enough that I couldn’t go out and function without feeling terribly uncomfortable. It caused plenty of tears.

I saw an ENT doctor, who offered me a steroid spray for my sinuses, which I refused. “This is not a sinus problem,” I thought. My nose was perfectly clear. This cycle went on for almost two years.

So I did what any millennial journalist with working internet and a laptop would do: I googled the shit out of it. Deep into message board threads, people mentioned that they journaled when their one-sided headaches happened. When they analyzed the data, many found a link between their head pain and weather changes. The term “barometric pressure headache” was thrown out, and I knew that was my answer.

Looking back, I realized my headaches always came when it was about to rain, the air became very dry, or the temperature dramatically shifted from warm to cool (or vice versa). Still, I journaled and logged my headaches for months until I determined—with evidence!—that this had to be the case. And after understanding what was going on, I was finally able to manage them and feel better.

That said, it wasn’t until I chatted with Alexander Mauskop, MD, a doctor who works at the New York Headache Center that I realized my headaches were actually migraines. (Proof you should always get a second medical opinion.) Keep reading for his advice on diagnosing a barometric headache—plus, how to manage the pain.