Relationship between air mass type and emergency department visits for migraine headache across the Triangle region of North Carolina

Int J Biometeorol. 2017 Dec;61(12):2245-2254. doi: 10.1007/s00484-017-1432-z. Epub 2017 Sep 13.


An estimated 240 million people worldwide suffer from migraines. Because migraines are often debilitating, understanding the mechanisms that trigger them is crucial for effective prevention and treatment. Synoptic air mass types and emergency department (ED) visits for migraine headaches were examined over a 7-year period within a major metropolitan area of North Carolina to identify potential relationships between large-scale meteorological conditions and the incidence of migraine headaches. Barometric pressure changes associated with transitional air masses, or changing weather patterns, were also analyzed for potential relationships. Bootstrapping analysis revealed that tropical air masses (moist and dry) resulted in the greatest number of migraine ED visits over the study period, whereas polar air masses led to fewer. Moist polar air masses in particular were found to correspond with the fewest number of migraine ED visits. On transitional air mass days, the number of migraine ED visits fell between those of tropical air mass days and polar air mass days. Transitional days characterized by pressure increases exhibited a greater number of migraine ED visits than days characterized by pressure decreases. However, no relationship was found between migraine ED visits and the magnitude of barometric pressure changes associated with transitional air masses.

Keywords: Air mass; Emergency department; Headache; Migraine.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Air Movements
  • Atmospheric Pressure
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Emergency Service, Hospital / statistics & numerical data*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Migraine Disorders / epidemiology*
  • North Carolina / epidemiology
  • Young Adult