Humidity and Precipitation May Trigger Children's Migraines and Headaches

Patient Expert

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One of the most important parts of Migraine and headache management is trigger identification and management. We've known for some time now that changes in weather can be a very strong Migraine trigger for adults. It's been a general consensus that this applies to children as well, and it's certainly been reported anecdotally, but now a research study has verified that weather changes can trigger Migraine attacks in children too.

The study:

Study background:

"Variables that are thought to precipitate migraine or tension-type headache episodes in children hitherto have only been studied using retrospective reports. As such, there is little empirical evidence to support the actual predictive association between presumed headache triggers and actual headache occurrence in children."1

Study objective:

"The present study sought to determine if fluctuations in weather, a commonly reported headache trigger in children, predict increased likelihood of headache occurrence when evaluated using rigorous prospective methodology ("electronic momentary assessment")."1

Study methods:

  • Participants were 35 children (21 girls, 4 boys) between the ages of 8-17 years with a diagnosis of

    • chronic migraine with or without aura,
    • chronic tension-type headache, or
    • episodic migraine without aura.
  • Participants completed baseline measures on headache characteristics, presumed headache triggers, and mood.

  • Participants were trained in the use of electronic diaries to record information on Migraines an headaches. Information collected from the participant diaries included:

    • headache or Migraine occurrence
    • headache of Migraine intensity
    • duration of the Migraine or headache
    • the negative impact of the Migraine or headache
  • Three times a day, participants completed diaries on handheld computers for a two-week time period (42 assessments per participant).

  • During the two-week period, data on weather variables in the child's geographic location were recorded each time a diary was completed. Weather variables included:

    • temperature,
    • dew point temperature,
    • barometric pressure,
    • humidity,
    • precipitation, and
    • sunlight.

Study results:

  • On average, each of the participants completed 84% of the 42 assessments.

  • Headaches or Migraines occurred during 41% of the assessments.

  • Of the weather variables tested (as listed above), two weather variables were significantly predictive of a new Migraine or headache occurring:

    • increased relative humidity
    • precipitation
  • Other weather variables were not significantly predictive of a new Migraine or headache occurring:

    • temperature,
    • dew point temperature,
    • barometric pressure, and
    • sunlight.

Study conclusions:

"Results of the present study lend some support to the belief commonly held by children with recurrent headaches that weather changes may contribute to headache onset. Although electronic momentary assessment methodology was found to be feasible in this population and to have the potential to identify specific headache triggers for children, it remains to be determined how best (or even whether) to incorporate this information into treatment recommendations."1

Summary and comments:

This study presents interesting results. However, I'm not convinced of the reliability of children as young as eight-years-old self-reporting. This was also a very small study group of only 24 participants. That's not to dismiss this study at all. Information such as this is necessary before proceeding to larger studies.

Certainly, even a study this small does serve to begin validation of children's beliefs that some weather variables are indeed Migraine triggers.

This study is a great beginning, and it will be interesting to see the results of subsequent studies.


Resources:

1 Connelly, Mark, PhD; Miller, Todd, BA; Gerry, Gerry, MD; Bickel, Jennifer, MD. "Electronic Momentary Assessment of Weather Changes as a Trigger of Headache in Children." Headache, 2009. Published online in advance. doi: 10.1111/j.1526-4610.2009.01586.x.

2 Staff reporter. "It's true: Humidity, rain linked to kids' headaches." Reuters Health. New York. January 22, 2010.

Medical review by John Claude Krusz, PhD, MD

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