Winter Headache ! Causes and Cures


 As the winter starts, some people start to face the problem of headache which is initiated due to cold wind. A person prone to such headache often faces this problem by accidentally going outdoor in cold wind without covering the head or face. Here we will explain why cold wind is a primary reason behind such headaches and how we can prevent it.

Headache due to Cold Wind ! Why ?

During winters, usually our face and head are the only regions of our body that remain open to air contact. Due to that reason they are more prone to cold wind. Muscles and superficial blood-vessels get affected by the cold sensation. Superficial blood vessels get constricted due to cold sensation, which reduces the blood flow to facial muscles and other tissues. Muscles get stiff due to cold and it become harder for them to move. The continuous efforts to move them is accompanied with reduced blood flow, which results in feeling of pain. When such pain occurs near the temple region and forehead, we term it as headache. However such headache is not inside the head, but on the outer layer near skull. Some people also experience facial pain due to the same reason.

Headache due to Nervous System

As i have written in one of my earlier articles that we the humans are one of the best biological machines. Our nervous system is the electrical wiring of our body. Cranial Nerves, a set of 12 paired nerves in the back of your brain, carry the electrical signals from brain to face, neck and torso. These nerves are responsible for feelings / sensations like taste, smell, hearing and touching. 5th set of these cranial nerves is known as trigeminal nerves, which further expands itself in face, head, mouth, throat and neck to provide the sensory input from these parts of body.

Each trigeminal nerve have its root in brain and have three branches, classified as Ophthalmic, Maxillary and Mandibular. Opthalmic is responsible for upper part of your face and scalp. Maxillary is responsible for middle part of face including cheeks, nose, lower eyelids, upper lip and gums. Mandibular is responsible for lower part of face including jaws, lower lip and gum.

Stimulation of trigeminal nerves by cold temperature causes constriction of blood vessels in brain, which causes the headache. It is also one of the  reasons behind headache due to cold wind.

Apart from this primary reason, there are some minor reasons that cause headache due to cold wind. These minor reasons responsible for winter headache are listed here:

  • Pollens, the very minute particles that are part of plant's reproductive life, increase in air during winters. Some people suffer from allergic rhinitis due to these pollens and it also triggers headache.
  • Room heaters usually used during winters increase the carbon monoxide levels inside rooms with no/closed windows. High levels of carbon monoxide are fatal for human body, but even the lower levels can easily cause headache.
  • During winters the humidity level remain low in air. Cool and dry air can easily lead to dehydration. Dehydration may cause your brain to temporarily contract or shrink, which leads to headache.
  • Our food consumption increases during winters as our body needs more calories to keep itself warm. In order to fulfill that demand we often consume hot soup and other fast foods, which sometimes contain monosodium glutamate (MSG), which can also cause headache.
  • Barometric pressure (also known as atmospheric pressure) increases during winters due to lesser amount of sunshine. It activates the haemodynamic changes, which changes our blood pressure, and it can easily result in headache.
  • Some pockets of air reside in our head inside sinuses. Their equilibrium is also affected due to change in atmospheric pressure. Any sudden change in that balance can cause headache.
  • Lower amount of sunlight and shorter day length can provoke sadness and stress which leads to headache.
  • During beginning of winters our sleep routine changes due to shorter days and lengthy nights, which sometimes lead to headache. However it is very rare.
  • If you are already a patient of migraine, then migraine headache frequency may increase during winters.

How to prevent headaches during winters:

  • If you are allergic to pollens, then wear masks (as you wore during COVID19 pandemic), to save yourself from inhaling pollens.
  • If you feel more mucus in your sinus the clean it using warm water. Inhaling small amount of warm water and then forcefully throwing it out from one nostril at a time is the best way to do so. Clean sinus gives relief from heaviness in head.
  • Keep proper ventilation in your room, to avoid high levels of carbon monoxide while using room heaters.
  • Use humidifiers to keep indoor humidity level between 35 to 50%. It will save you from dry skin and dehydration also.
  • Hydrate yourself by drinking plenty of water. Drink Tea or coffee but avoid too much caffeine.
  • Wear warm clothes during winters. Take extra precautions like properly covering your head, neck and face while going outside. Avoid going outside with wet hair as dry cool wind can chill your head.
  • Try to be in sunlight when possible, so that your body can generate vitamin-D. If it is not possible then take some vitamin-D supplement in case of deficiency.
  • Avoid eating those food items that contain monosodium glutamate (MSG).
  • Take regular meals, sleep well and exercise regularly. This last point may sound very normal, but it is one of the most necessary to keep you healthy.

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