06 December 2005

Managing summer headache risks

Seasonal changes and types of pollen in the air in summer which may serve to trigger headaches and migraines among people who prone to these conditions.

Seasonal changes and types of pollen in the air in summer which may serve to trigger headaches and migraines among people who prone to these conditions.

But the good news is that most people can control summer headaches by taking sensible precautions against the heat, says Dr Elliot Shevel, specialist in the treatment and prevention of headaches and medical director at The Headache Clinic.

Many people experience migraines and headaches after they have spent time in the summer sun without the protection of a hat or sunshade. Shevel and Prof Speiring from the Department of Neurology at Harvard Medical School, have published papers on the mechanism by which the small arteries of the scalp are the source of migraine pain for many people. ”"It is possible that summer heat triggers migraines by causing these arteries to dilate," says Shevel.

When the body temperature rises as a result of exercise or the heat from the sun, the small blood vessels in the skin dilate to allow us to lose heat. This heat regulation system may also play a part in the dilation of the scalp arteries, he adds.

Many headache and migraine sufferers are sensitive to bright light and avoid it when they have a headache. Bright light can trigger headaches. It is thus wise to wear sunglasses with polarised lenses which are effective in cutting out glare. A suitable hat may also be helpful, recommends Shevel.

A change in seasons also bring changes in the pollen types that are in the air and these may directly trigger headaches, or cause hay-fever with headaches and sinus congestion and pressure as secondary conditions.

“Many types of headaches, particularly migraines, do not go away by themselves, and people who neglect to have them treated open themselves up to more health complaints. While patients can control their exposure to headache triggers to some extent, they are advised to seek treatment from a multi-disciplinary health practice to address the underlying causes of their pain if headaches are undermining their quality of life,” says Shevel.

- Information supplied by the Headache Clinic.

Related articles:
Part I: Festive season rush triggers headaches
Part II: Holiday time, headache time
Part IV: Headache? Relax and take a deep breath


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Dr Elliot Shevel is a South African migraine surgery pioneer and the founder and medical director of The Headache Clinic in Johannesburg, Durban and Cape Town, South Africa. The Headache Clinic is a multidisciplinary practice dedicated to the diagnosis and treatment of Primary Headaches and Migraines. Dr Shevel is also the main author of all scientific publications generated by his team. He recently won a high level science debate in which he was able to prove that the current migraine diagnosis and classification is not based on data. Tertiary Education - Dr Shevel holds both Dental and Medical degrees, and practises as a specialist Maxillo-facial and Oral Surgeon. Follow the Headache Clinic on Twitter@HeadacheClinic.

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