The Effect of Weather on Headache


  • Patricia B. Prince MD,

  • Alan M. Rapoport MD,

  • Fred D. Sheftell MD,

  • Stewart J. Tepper MD,

  • Marcelo E. Bigal MD, PhD

  • From the Department of Pediatrics, Children's Hospital, Boston, MA (Dr. Prince); Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons, New York, NY (Dr. Rapoport); The New England Center for Headache, Stamford, CT (Drs. Rapoport, Sheftell, Tepper, and Bigal); New York Medical College, New York, NY (Dr. Sheftell); Yale University School of Medicine, New Haven, CT (Dr. Tepper); Albert Einstein College of Medicine, New York, NY (Dr. Bigal).

Address all correspondence to Alan M. Rapoport, 778 Long Ridge Road, Stamford, CT 06902.


Objectives.—To assess headache patients' beliefs about how strongly weather affects their headaches; To objectively investigate the influence of multiple weather variables on headache.

Design and Methods.—Our sample consisted of 77 migraineurs seen in a headache clinic, who provided headache calendars for a period ranging from 2 to 24 months. Our study was divided into two phases. First, each patient was given a questionnaire assessing their beliefs about how strongly (if so) weather affected their headaches. Second, weather data were collected from the National Weather Service, from three reporting stations central to the residences of the study participants. Analysis was performed on 43 variables to generate three meteorological factors. Linear regression was used to assess the relationship between headache and these three factors. Factor 1 represents a function of absolute temperature and humidity. Factor 2 represents a changing weather pattern. Factor 3 represents barometric pressure.

Results.—Of the 77 subjects in the study, 39 (50.6%), were found to be sensitive to weather, but 48 (62.3%) thought they were sensitive to weather conditions (P < 0.05). Thirty (38.9%) were sensitive to one weather factor and 9 (11.7%) to two factors. Twenty-six (33.7%) were sensitive to factor 1; 11 (14.3%) to factor 2; 10 (12.9%) to factor 3.

Conclusions.—Our study supports the influence of weather variables on headache. We showed that patients are susceptible to multiple weather variables and that more patients thought weather was a trigger than was the case.