Dr. Alexander Mauskop is a neurologist and founder of the New York Headache Center. He says that for every nine degree rise in outside temperature, your headache risk jumps 8 percent, mostly because heat expands the blood vessels in your skull until they press against nearby nerve endings. So, here’s how to reduce your risk of summer headaches:
Tension headaches. 78% of North Americans get tension headaches – up to 15 times a month during heat waves. The fix: Take a painkiller at the first sign of scalp tightness. To prevent future headaches: Exercise! Studies show that couch potatoes are 14 percent more likely to get tension headaches than those who exercise.
Then there’s the summer sinus headache. Colds, allergies, sinus infections and stinky cologne can all inflame your sinuses, causing pain around your eyes. Summer storms can make things worse. Why? Dr. Kenneth Mukamal is a professor at Harvard Medical School, and he says the pressure inside your sinuses should match the atmospheric pressure. However, if you’re stuffy when a pressure-changing summer storm rolls in, painful pressure builds in your sinuses – much like when your ears won’t pop on a plane. The fix: Put a damp cloth over your eyes to relieve inflammation, and use an over-the-counter nasal spray to knock out the congestion. If symptoms last longer than four days, see your doctor. To prevent future sinus headaches: Put a HEPA filter in your A/C to screen out the pollen, dust, mold and airborne bacteria that can cause nasal inflammation.
Finally, are your summer headaches migraines? They may be if you exhibit the three symptoms of migraines: Pain that keeps you from normal activities, nausea, and sensitivity to light. An ice pack can offer some relief, but you may need a prescription from your doctor to shrink your blood vessels. To prevent future migraines, ask your doctor to test your magnesium levels, because too little can lead to pain-inducing inflammation in your blood vessels.