Stop the Headaches: How to Adjust to Changing Weather

SoCal residents almost never know what to expect from the weather -- especially at this time of year. A few weeks ago, we braced for El Niño’s major showers, followed by the usual cold weather and strong winds. Instead, we’re suffering through temperatures near 90 in the middle of February, and dry winds that are activating a variety of allergy and respiratory symptoms:

Migraines

As if the weather wasn’t headache enough, people with migraines may find their headaches being triggered by the change. A sudden rise in temperature or dip in the barometric pressure can set off a migraine. Studies have found that the odds of a migraine flare rise 7.5% for every 9°F increase – which translates into a 20% increase when the high goes from the 50s to the mid 80s.

>> The Treatment

Aside from medications you may already be taking to prevent frequent migraines, try to keep track of the temperature and pressure changes that trigger your flares, to get some lead time to make adjustments in your routine. You might plan to spend more time in air-conditioned areas, or to refill your preventive medications early just in case.

Asthma Attacks

If you suffer from lung conditions, weather changes can make breathing difficult in a hurry. Santa Ana winds carry pollen and other allergens into your airways, which can trigger asthma attacks; hot temperatures can increase breathing effort to keep your body cool; and low humidity can make phlegm thicker and harder to clear from the chest. When these happen together, the chance of an asthma flare goes way up.

>> The Treatment

Staying cool is important, but even more so, staying well hydrated with drinks, as well as humidifying the air you breathe. Spend more time indoors with central air, to minimize exposure to dust and pollens – at least during the worst of the heat and winds. And definitely stay well stocked on your asthma medications.

Eczema

People that suffer from the rashes of eczema can expect their skin condition to worsen when the weather changes – cold snaps or heat waves can do it, as can a sudden dryness from the Santa Ana winds. The usual areas like knuckles, elbows, and ears can become dry, red, cracked, and weepy.

>> The Treatment

Keeping the skin moisturized is key to prevention: applying moisturizers regularly, and minimizing drying exposures like strong detergents, soaps, or prolonged immersion in hot water. Once the rash flares, you’ll likely need a prescription cream or ointment to treat it for a week or two.

Don’t let the weather get you down – sweating in February is a pain, but with some planning and forethought you can minimize any derailments to your routine. And don’t forget: we’re in the peak month of the influenza season this year, even though it’s been hot and dry. Remember to visit your local urgent care in Woodbridge, urgent care center in Fountain Valley, or urgent care in Costa Mesa if you happen to feel under the weather. We’re here to serve you!

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Peter Kim, MD

Dr. Kim,  is the Medical Director of Family Care Centers, Former Chair of the Department of Family Medicine at Hoag Hospital, and a recipient of the Physicians of Excellence award from the Orange County Medical Association. He is Board Certified in Family Medicine, and has been practicing in our community for over 20 years. He is an excellent, caring, and well­qualified physician who is dedicated to providing you with superior health care. A native of Los Angeles, he graduated from UCLA and received his medical training at the LAC­USC Medical Center. After completing his residency in Family Medicine, he accepted a sports medicine fellowship at San Jose Medical Center, an affiliate of Stanford University. He enjoys working with patients and families who are training or want to get back into an active lifestyle. Review Dr. Kim on: Facebook Google+ Yelp WebMD