How to Relieve a Summertime Headache

October 14, 2019
A summertime headache is a cause for concern on many people's vacations. This article explains the reasons why you might get a summertime headache and how to help prevent it.

There’s no doubt that a summertime headache is something that ends up bothering everyone at some point. The summer season is accompanied by an increased number of headache consultations and exacerbation of migraine episodes.

Surveys conducted in various countries reveal that between 85-90% of people report having suffered at least one headache in the last year. Thus, headache consultations are the most frequent complaint in almost all health services.

However, this condition does not affect men as much as it affects women. 80% of men have had a headache episode in the last year but for women, this number rises to 95%. Similarly, migraines affect women more than men, affecting about 15% of the general population.

Now, why is summer a risk factor for headaches? It’s supposed to be a time for relaxing more, doing outdoor activities, avoiding staying indoors and – of course – much better weather, right?

However, those conditions and activities are precisely what could contribute to a headache.

Let’s look at some of the multiple hidden causes behind the summertime headache.

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Causes of a summertime headache

There are several reasons you might get a headache. Except for particular diseases and conditions with known causes, most often headaches are not caused by a single factor.

A summertime headache is no exception. Your head doesn’t hurt just because it’s summer. It hurts because of a series of conditions and situations that can happen during that time of year.

The combination of all of these summer-related situations can quite often lead to an obnoxious headache. A common combination is when you take a vacation and there are changes in your sleeping habits as well as additional exposure to sunlight.

Heat

Of course, heat is one of the most common causes of headaches. During the summer, blood vessels in the body often dilate due to higher temperatures outdoors.

This means that the blood vessels increase in size to exchange heat energy with the outside and therefore help prevent a heat stroke. Unfortunately, a side effect of this blood vessel dilation can be migraines.

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Alcohol consumption and dehydration

During the summer, your body demands more fluids than usual due to the high outside temperatures. People often try to quench their thirst with alcohol during the hot months. However, alcohol does not hydrate. On the contrary: you get even more dehydrated and then you get a headache.

Changes in sleep schedules

Woman laying in bed looking at clock has insomnia summertime headache

Insomnia tends to worsen in summer and can therefore trigger migraines or headaches.

Changes in the daytime and nighttime hours can also be a reason your migraines are worsening. When the body is exposed to more light during the day, sleep habits and schedules can change as a result.

A classic consequence of this is that during the summer, you sleep fewer hours or may even suffer from insomnia.

People who do not suffer from insomnia regularly may experience it during the summer. Perhaps work is more relaxed, your children do not have to get up early for school, the phone and television screens stay on longer.

Also, your social life is booming, you consume more alcohol and caffeine (a diuretic), and as a result, you get more headaches.

How to prevent a summertime headache

Let’s look at what measures you can take to help prevent the onset of a summertime headache. All of these are simple steps that can be divided into two groups based on their main objectives:

  • To counteract the summer heat.
  • To counteract unhealthy summertime habits.

Steps to combat the heat and prevent a summertime headache

  • Be careful with the sun: The summer sun is much harder on the body, so it’s important to protect yourself with hats and wear white clothes. Also, sunglasses are useful. If possible, try to do your outdoor activities a few hours before or after noon, as that’s when the sun is the strongest.
  • Avoid drastic changes in temperature: In summer, it’s common for people to put the air conditioner on full blast. However, entering and leaving areas where the temperature is very high or very low can be a trigger for headaches.
  • Keep your home cool – not cold: Inside your house, try to keep the temperature cool rather than cold with your air conditioner. Therefore, fans are a much better option if you want to beat the heat.
  • Stay hydrated: During the summer, the body requires more water than usual. To avoid dehydration, it’s important to drink fluids very regularly and avoid drinks that will dehydrate you quickly, such as alcohol.
Woman running outside drinking from a water bottle summertime headache
Staying hydrated during the summer is essential and it can also help prevent headaches. Therefore, take extra care to make sure you’re drinking enough water!

Measures against summer habits

  • Eating healthy: You can increase your intake of fluids by consuming more foods that provide water, such as fruits and vegetables. For migraine sufferers, it’s important to avoid foods that contain substances that can trigger headaches. These types of foods include sausages and chocolate.
  • Maintain a regular sleep schedule: Changing your routine seems to be a habit in the summer. However, many medical specialists agree that the best thing to do is to try to keep your sleep schedule fairly the same throughout the year. In addition to going to bed and waking up around the same time, you should also keep getting the same amount of sleep each night.
  • If you can’t wake up or go to bed on time, you can try to add a nap of up to thirty minutes during the most intense hours of sunlight. Also, this will prevent you from being in the sun when it’s at its strongest.

Conclusion

During the summer, we’re exposed to an increasing number of factors that can lead to the onset of headaches. The higher temperatures coupled with dehydration and insomnia might explain why more people suffer from more frequent headaches during this time of year.

Fortunately, there are some steps you can take to take better care of yourself by modifying some of your habits. These are some ways to both prevent the onset of a summertime headache as well as soothe existing pain.

Keep these tips in mind!

  • Cid, J. María Loreto. Cefaleas, evaluación y manejo inicial. Revista Médica Clínica Las Condes 25.4 (2014): 651-657.
  • Auber, Gregory J. Cómo eliminar el calor: tratamiento de los trastornos causados por el calor. Nursing (Ed. española) 23.6 (2005): 28-30.
  • Visens, Laura S. Actualización en la prevención y tratamiento de la migraña. Medicina (Buenos Aires) 74.2 (2014).