“We know that the sun is very important to live. We need the sun.”
If you notice that you’re more likely to get migraines in the summer, after long days outside, or on vacations, it’s possible that sunlight is a migraine trigger for you. (Here are other common migraine triggers.)
“Too much sunlight can most definitely be risky to individuals who are prone to migraine,” says Cynthia Armand, MD, neurologist at Montefiore Medical Center in New York City. There are two key reasons:
Dehydration: “The sun emits heat, and that heat can in turn lead to dehydration,” says Dr. Armand. “There needs to be a certain level of hydration for things to run smoothly.” Dehydration causes the blood vessels to constrict, which can lead to migraine.
Photosensitivity: “Sunlight emits certain wavelengths of light and those wavelengths can be really disruptive to how the brain interprets the light that's coming through the nerves,” says Dr. Armand.
If sunlight is a migraine trigger for you, you don’t have to move to cloudy Seattle or hibernate in your home. Here are habits that can help prevent migraines from sunlight:
1. Stay hydrated
“Before going out into the heat, make sure that you drink a lot of water, at least two to three glasses [to] keep the levels of hydrations up in the body,” says Dr. Armand.
2. Wear sunglasses
Protecting your eyes with the appropriate sunglasses can help prevent migraines from photosensitivity. Talk to an eyecare provider about the right sunglasses with proper tinting for migraine prevention.
3. Stay cool
Keeping the body cool can help prevent dehydration. Dr. Armand suggests wearing a hat to shade the face, staying in shaded areas, and wearing breathable garments.
4. Do *not* avoid the sun
“Avoiding the sun is not recommended at all. We know that the sun is very important to live. We need the sun. The sun gives us certain nutrients like vitamin D. Our body needs that to function,” says Dr. Armand.
Sunlight also works with your internal clock to help regulate your hormones, which affects your sleep-wake cycles and your mood.
“If someone loves to spend time in the sun and, unfortunately, struggles with migraines because of that, I want to make sure that you live your best life. And the first thing that we would love for you to do is make sure that you see a headache specialist, because we can help you do that,” says Dr. Armand.
Dr. Armand is a neurologist and headache specialist at Montefiore Headache Center in New York City.
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Too much sunlight can most definitely be risky
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to individuals who are prone to migraine,
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reason being is that the sun emits heat,
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and that heat can in turn lead to dehydration.
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The second thing is that the sunlight emits
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certain wavelengths of light, and that can lead
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to something called photosensitivity.
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And photosensitivity itself can be a characteristic
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of migraines, and also can lead to a migraine attack.
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We know for a fact through research,
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scientific research, that dehydration is
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a very potent trigger of migraine.
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There needs to be a certain level of hydration
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for things to run smoothly, so we know
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that our blood vessels can close or become dilated,
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and through those processes
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can cause a migraine attack.
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Before going out into the heat, make sure that you
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drink a lot of water, at least two to three glasses.
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That will keep the levels of hydration up in the body.
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The next thing, they want to make sure
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they're prepared for the heat
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by wearing appropriate sunscreen,
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and also doing things to keep the body cool,
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like having sunglasses that will shield the eyes
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from the heat, wearing a hat, staying in the shade,
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and also your garments.
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You want to make sure you wear breathable garments
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and something that will shield against the sunlight
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and the heat that it emits.
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Avoiding the sun is not recommended at all.
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We know that the sun is very important to live.
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We need the sun.
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The sun gives us certain nutrients, like vitamin D.
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Our body needs that to function.
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The sun also works with an internal clock in our bodies
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that helps us know when it's time to wake up,
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when it's time to go to sleep,
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and it helps our hormones function appropriately.
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If someone loves to spend time in the sun
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and unfortunately struggles with migraines
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because of that, the first thing that we would love
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for you to do is make sure you see
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a headache specialist because we can help find a plan
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for you, and that's really important to us,
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so you can do this.
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We want to empower you to live life well
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and enjoy the sunlight, all while being prepared.
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Photophobia (light sensitivity) and migraine. Mount Royal, NJ: American Migraine Foundation. (Accessed on February 19, 2020 at https://americanmigrainefoundation.org/resource-library/photophobia-light-sensitivity-migraine/.)
Preventive treatment of migraine in adults. Waltham, MA: UpToDate, 2020. (Accessed on February 19, 2020 at https://www.uptodate.com/contents/preventive-treatment-of-migraine-in-adults.)
Tips for avoiding summer migraines and headaches. Mount Royal, NJ: American Migraine Foundation. (Accessed on February 19, 2020 at https://americanmigrainefoundation.org/resource-library/tips-for-avoiding-summer-migraines-and-headaches/.)