Audrey Pachuta had her first heat headache when she was 9 years old. During a softball tournament that summer, her home state of New Jersey was sweltering, leaving players on the field in 90-degree heat.

severe pain, She remembers getting sick behind her eyes after every game.

“I don’t see!” She cried to her father after a particularly hot game.

Pachuta, 19, now realizes her vision issues are the result of heat-triggered migraines.

Since then, heat waves have become more frequent and longer worldwide, due to climate change. According to the Migraine Foundation of America, approximately 39 million Americans live with migraines. Half Elizabeth Loder, M.D., head of the headache department at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, says that many people with migraines cite the weather as one of their headache triggers.

Here’s what you need to know about heat headaches and how to avoid them.

Does heat really cause headaches?

Experts agree that heat can be the main cause, although the onset of headaches is often a complex combination of environmental factors.

High temperatures are accompanied by changes in barometric pressure, exposure to direct sunlight, and exposure to humidity, and these environmental changes can trigger headaches for people with migraines.

“The migraine brain doesn’t like flexibility,” says Jessica Ailani, MD, director of the Headache Center at MedStar Georgetown. “He wants you to sleep at the same time, eat the same thing. So big changes in temperature and weather are not good for migraines.”

Experts are unsure of the exact mechanism by which heat causes headaches, although heat is known to cause headaches. Extreme dehydration can cause your brain to shrink and constrict blood vessels in the brain, which can lead to physical pain, Loder said.

In severe cases, heat can affect it According to Mayo Clinic neurologist Narayan Kisson, the function of the brain’s neurons. He said the altered cell function increases activity in the brain’s pain centers.

What is the difference between a headache and a migraine?

Headaches are a common symptom of many illnesses, Loder says, but migraines are a neurological disorder that causes headaches.

“It’s like the difference between a sneeze (probably an allergy) and a cold,” says Cherubino Di Lorenzo, chair of neurology at Sapienza University in Rome.

People with migraines experience it Headache due to various reasons Reasons, including Stress, dehydration, lack of sleep – and yes, heat, experts say. Women They suffer from migraines more often than men. Migraine is usually accompanied by other symptoms, e.g Nausea, fatigue, dizziness and sensitivity to light or sound.

Pachuta found him. Lying relief from migraines caused by heat In the dark room, her eyes closed until the pain behind her eyes subsided. If a mild headache is accompanied by a general feeling of “loss,” you may have a migraine attack early.

But heat is unlikely to trigger headaches in people who don’t usually suffer from them, Loder said.

In these cases, headache caused by high temperature It could be a symptom of a more serious heat-related illness, such as heat exhaustion or heat stroke, Loder said. It is important to recognize these signs early, stay hydrated and find a place to cool off.

Experts agree that dehydration can worsen the body’s ability to cope with heat, but is not the cause of heat-related headaches.

High temperatures can lead to electrolyte imbalances because the body loses sodium through sweat, which means it’s important to replenish yourself with electrolytes and water.

“Dehydration is closely related to electrolyte imbalance because water follows salt,” Kison said. “With the loss of salt, the body’s ability to retain water decreases.”

However, heat headaches can occur even when a person is well hydrated.

Patrick Cortesi, 55, is a landscaper for his local school district in Bloomington, Ill. Because the job requires him to be outside 40 hours a week, Cortesi wears sunscreen, drinks plenty of water and takes breaks in the air conditioning. In the hottest days of the year. Even so, Cortesi has many headaches during the week, in a region known for seasonal congestion, which causes corn sweat.

“It’s not just drought,” Ailani said. Any time the heat index reaches this level you have to take better care of yourself… you can’t just drink this.

What can you do to relieve symptoms?

Don’t just brush it off, experts say.

Heat-induced headaches are a sign that things could be worse, especially if you don’t suffer from migraines. Get out of the heat and try to cool yourself down with a cold drink or an ice pack. Look for air conditioning at home and use cooling centers during heat waves.

Drink water and electrolyte drinks to help your body replenish itself. Add electrolytes to your water by sprinkling some salt or lemon juice, says Ailani.

Then you can use strategies that normally help you manage headaches, Loder says, such as sleeping in a dark room with your eyes closed.

Avoid known food triggers and cut back on alcohol, which contributes to dehydration, Kison said. Sugary drinks can also cause dehydration, Di Lorenzo said.

Another seemingly obvious comment? Avoid outdoor sports during high temperatures.

“This seems like simple advice, but all of the reported cases of heat stroke headaches have occurred in people who didn’t follow this common-sense rule,” Di Lorenzo said.

If you need to be outside, sunglasses can be an important preventative measure, he added.

There are several tried-and-true over-the-counter medications for headaches, such as aspirin and Tylenol. Doctors can also prescribe triptansAccording to Loder, it binds to serotonin receptors and prevents the release of neurotransmitters.

Migraine treatments recently approved by the Food and Drug Administration include: CGRP antagonistsTargeting a molecule that plays a role in headaches. LasmidianA triptan-like action may be safer for migraine sufferers with a history of coronary artery disease, Kison said.

In addition, preventive treatments as a CGRP monoclonal antibodies Block the action of CGRP and it is taken by someone with migraine despite having a headache.

“We recommend that anyone with migraine who has any type of headache six or more days a month take a preventative medication to reduce the number of headache days,” Kisson said.

For those struggling with headaches, it’s important to touch base with your healthcare provider.

“It’s not hopeless,” Ailani said. “There are many treatments available to help get through these difficult months.”