What Are Heat Headaches and How to Prevent Them
Severe headaches and migraines are not uncommon during the summer months. The frequency of headaches can increase for a number of reasons, including dehydration, pollution, heat exhaustion and even heat stroke, which become more common as temperatures rise. Heat-related headaches may feel like a throbbing, dull ache in the temples or back of the head. Depending on the cause, heat-related headaches can develop into a more severe internal pain.
This oneHOWTO article explains what heat headaches are, how to treat them, and how to prevent them from happening.
What are heat headaches?
Headache is a common disorder of the nervous system, affecting 50-75% of people worldwide each year. The triggers of headaches and migraines can vary from person to person, but headaches can also be a symptom of heat-related conditions.
Heat headaches often occur in hot weather or during physical activities that raise body temperature. It is unlikely that heat headaches are caused by the heat itself. In most cases, the cause is another trigger related to the heat.
Regardless of the rise in temperatures, the causes of headaches are varied and may be a symptom of an underlying health problem. In most cases, however, they are caused by some of our daily habits, such as the foods we eat and the way we eat. Those who are prone to headaches or suffer from them frequently should review their eating habits and eliminate foods that can increase the risk of headaches. In the following article, you will learn which foods are most likely to cause headaches.
What causes heat headaches?
As mentioned earlier, heat-related headaches are not caused by the hot weather itself, but by the way your body reacts to the heat. The most common weather-related triggers of summer headaches and migraines include:
- Dehydration: when you are exposed to higher temperatures, your body needs more water to compensate for the loss it experiences from sweating (water and electrolytes). Dehydration of the body is thought to trigger headaches because a lack of fluids causes blood vessels to constrict.
- Heat-related illnesses: Exposure to high temperatures for extended periods of time puts you at risk for heat stroke, one of the precursors to heat exhaustion. Headaches, usually accompanied by dizziness and confusion, are usually one of the first symptoms of heat exhaustion. Heat stroke is often not severe if you can cool down within 30 minutes. If heat stroke does occur, you need to see a doctor.
- Changes in weather conditions: weather conditions can also cause changes in your serotonin levels. These hormonal fluctuations are a common trigger for migraines, but they can also cause headaches. In addition, research has shown that even a small drop in barometric pressure can trigger migraines or headaches.
- Sun exposure: In some cases, sun exposure can trigger headaches or migraines, especially in people who suffer from photophobia, a very common condition. Photophobia is a term used to describe an abnormal discomfort of the eyes when exposed to bright light. If left untreated, this discomfort typically leads to headaches or migraines.
The risk of dehydration increases exponentially in summer due to high temperatures, but also if you sweat excessively during exercise. So you should be vigilant and always keep yourself well hydrated by drinking enough water and healthy fluids. In this other article, you will learn what the symptoms of dehydration are and when you should see a doctor to treat them.
Signs of heat headache
Heat or environmental headaches can have different symptoms depending on what is causing them. However, heat headaches usually present with the following symptoms:
- Mild to moderate pain on both sides of the head.
- Headache that worsens with activity.
- Persistent pain that is dull but not throbbing
If your headache is triggered by heat stroke, in addition to the headache, you will also have symptoms of heat stroke, which may include the following:
- Muscle cramps or tightness
- Extreme thirst
- Weakness or fatigue
- Rapid but weak pulse
Heat stroke can cause all sorts of symptoms, including palpitations, dehydration, and diarrhea. Continue reading this other article to learn why heat sometimes causes diarrhea and cramps.
Heat headache relief and prevention
One way to prevent heat headaches is to drink plenty of water and take breaks from activities in hot weather. As soon as you notice that you are getting heat headaches, you should take steps to help yourself so that the symptoms do not worsen:
- Find a place where you can cool off and rest.
- Drink water to keep yourself hydrated.
- Take a cool bath or wet your clothes with cold water to drop your body temperature.
- Drink iced herbal teas or herbs such as motherwort or willow bark.
- Call your doctor if you think you need extra help, such as if the headache lasts more than an hour, if you have trouble breathing, or if you feel nauseous.
- Over-the-counter acetaminophen (Tylenol) and ibuprofen (Advil) can also be used for pain relief if needed.
How to prevent heat headaches
One of the best ways to prevent migraines is to recognize the things that trigger an attack and try to avoid them. In the specific case of heat headaches, there are many things you can do to help your body cope better with high temperatures:
- If possible, do not spend too much time outdoors on hot days.
- Protect your eyes with sunglasses and a brimmed hat to avoid being exposed to photophobia.
- Exercise indoors in an air-conditioned environment.
- Take regular breaks in shaded areas.
- Continue to eat your meals on a normal schedule.
- Avoid caffeinated beverages.
There are many natural alternatives that can help you relieve the signs of headaches. The following article presents some natural remedies and medicinal plants that you can use to relieve headaches without taking pills.
Good hydration is an essential factor to avoid heat headaches. Drink about 2.5 liters of water every day in small amounts and many times. Keep in mind that this is one of the main causes of heat headaches in children, so you can avoid it by constantly hydrating.
To avoid dehydration and beat the heat, consuming fresh foods such as fruits, salads and gazpacho is a good way to do it. In this other article we teach you how to make a good gazpacho step by step.
Regarding the headache, it is important to remove from the diet foods that contain nitrates , such as sausages and cold cuts, and those that have tyramine in their composition (chocolate, some nuts or cheese). It is also advisable to eliminate foods with monosodium glutamate , that is, a frequent additive in precooked or packaged foods and that is identified by the code E-621.
This article is merely informative, oneHOWTO does not have the authority to prescribe any medical treatments or create a diagnosis. We invite you to visit your doctor if you have any type of condition or pain.
If you want to read similar articles to What Are Heat Headaches and How to Prevent Them, we recommend you visit our Family health category.