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Lightning Tied to Headache, Migraines

Update Date: Jan 25, 2013 07:32 AM EST

A new study has linked lightning with headaches and migraine triggers. Researchers say that the study can help people who are prone to get nasty headaches during thunderstorms, predict the headache and take preventive measures to deal with the bad weather.

The study was conducted by researchers from University of Cincinnati, who found that lightning increased the odds of a headache by 31 percent and there was a 28 percent increased risk of migraine (in people diagnosed with the condition) when lightning struck within 25 miles from the study participants' house.

Also, there was a risk of onset of headache in about 23 percent of the participants and migraines in 24 percent of the participants due to the lightning.

Participants in the study were recruited from Ohio and Missouri. All of them fulfilled the criteria for International Headache Society and they were asked to record the times that they had headaches in a daily journal for three to six months.

"We used mathematical models to determine if the lightning itself was the cause of the increased frequency of headaches or whether it could be attributed to other weather factors encountered with thunderstorms. Our results found a 19 percent increased risk for headaches on lightning days, even after accounting for these weather factors. This suggests that lightning has its own unique effect on headache," lead author Vincent Martin, UC Health physician and an expert in headaches, said in a news release.

Martin added that negatively charged lightning currents are also linked with headaches in some people. However, the exact mechanism by which changes in the environment cause headaches is unknown and researchers believe that future studies will provide a better understanding of this complex phenomenon.

"There are a number of ways in which lightning might trigger headaches. Electromagnetic waves emitted from lightning could trigger headaches. In addition, lightning produces increases in air pollutants like ozone and can cause release of fungal spores that might lead to migraine," Martin said.

The study is published in the journal Cephalalgia.

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