Weather and emergency room visits for migraine headaches in Ottawa, Canada

Headache. 2006 Jan;46(1):64-72. doi: 10.1111/j.1526-4610.2006.00322.x.


Background: Self-reported surveys have indicated that weather can trigger migraine headaches. However, to date, we know of no previous study that has examined the relationship between weather and emergency room (ER) visits for this condition.

Objective: To examine associations between ER visits for migraines and selected meteorological conditions within the 24 hours preceding the visit.

Design and methods: A case-crossover design was used to study 4039 visits for migraines (ICD-9: 346) that occurred at an Ottawa hospital between 1993 and 2000. Meteorological conditions were defined using hourly readings from a fixed-site monitoring station. Conditional logistic regression was used to compare the occurrence of meteorological conditions during the 24 hours leading up to the time of the visit to control periods occurring 1 week before and after.

Results: Precipitation-related weather events (fog, snow, rain, thunder) were not associated with migraine visits. Similarly, no associations were observed with changes in atmospheric pressure, wind speed, and relative humidity during the 24 hours preceding presentation. No statistically significant differences in the frequency distribution of clusters defined by relative humidity, atmospheric pressure, and temperature were found between case and control intervals. Conversely, a mean wind speed in excess of 19 km per hour was associated with a reduction in ER visits 8 to 12 hours later.

Conclusions: Our findings provide little support for the hypothesis that ER visits for migraines are related to weather conditions occurring within the 24 hours preceding presentation. These results should be interpreted cautiously as some comparisons are based on a small number of cases, and ER visits for migraine may represent a highly selective group of patients who suffer from this condition.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Cross-Over Studies
  • Emergency Medical Services / statistics & numerical data*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Migraine Disorders / epidemiology*
  • Migraine Disorders / therapy
  • Odds Ratio
  • Ontario / epidemiology
  • Weather*