Extreme heat can trigger headaches and migraines, local doctor says

The heat the D.C. region has been experiencing can lead to more headaches and migraines than normal, according to a local physician.

“Heat can definitely cause people to have more headaches,” said Dr. Rachel Marquez, an adult and family medicine physician at Kaiser Permanente in Virginia.

She said many of her patients tend to get more headaches during the summer. The number one reason is dehydration.

“We may be drinking how much water we normally drink, but when we’re outside and it’s hot, and we’re sweating, we need to be drinking more water,” Marquez said.

She recommended keeping electrolyte drinks on hand or adding supplements to your water.

Marquez also said too much sunlight can be a trigger for patients who are light sensitive. Sunburns can also cause headaches, so wear sunblock or find some shade.

Heat-related headaches, Marquez said, can feel like a dull pain or pressure around your whole head. But a migraine feels like a throbbing, intense pain with other symptoms, such as nausea, vomiting or significant sensitivity to light and noise.

If you do get a heat-induced headache or migraine, she said to try to find somewhere inside with air conditioning to cool off. You can take Tylenol, ibuprofen or any medication prescribed for migraines. A cold, wet washcloth might also give you some relief.

“You can put it on your neck, put it on your forehead to help bring the heat and the body temperature down a little bit to help break that headache,” she said.

A headache can be a symptom of early heat exhaustion or another heat-related illness.

“That’s an indication that you may be getting into a little bit of trouble with your heat exposure,” Marquez said. “Pick up on those cues and take care of yourself and your health.”

If your headache lasts longer than 24 hours, or you’re getting them more frequently, talk to your primary care physician.

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