This was written by Cherise Udell. It originally posted at Utah Moms for Clean Air:
Before moving to Utah nine years ago I never had a headache that would qualify as a migraine. Now I have a handful of these head-splitting beasts every year. They get so bad that I sometimes actually vomit and am out of commission sometimes for days.
Of course, I would love to avoid these episodes, but I cannot pinpoint exactly what causes them. I do have a few suspicions and one of them is dirty air. Many of my worst headaches do seem to correspond with high pollution days and when I mentioned this, someone sent me this article from Reuters Health:
Have a headache and don’t know why? It could be high levels of air pollution.
A study from the densely populated Santiago Province of Chile — a region surrounded by the Coastal and Andes mountains and, therefore, geographically prone to air pollution – found increased hospital admissions for migraines and other headaches on days of elevated air pollution readings.
Further investigations are needed to confirm the consistency of these findings in different regions, Dr. Sabit Cakmak, with Health Canada in Ottawa, Ontario, and co-investigators say.
In the study, reported in the American Journal of Epidemiology, Cakmak’s team assessed air pollution levels taken at 7 monitoring stations between 2001 and 2005. The stations measured for ozone and air pollutants such as nitrogen and sulfur dioxide, carbon monoxide, and tiny, floating particles known as particulate matter associated with the combustion of gasoline, natural gas, and other fossil fuels.
During the same period, the investigators collected information on the number of hospitalizations for migraine headache, as well as tension, cluster, or other types of headache.
When the investigators pooled the air pollution data from all regions they found, air pollution was a risk factor for all types of headache. This remained true in all pollutant-headache combinations analyzed.
These associations did not significantly change in analyses that accounted for the influence of age, gender, or season, Cakmak noted.
Based on their findings, Cakmak and colleagues say the estimates of the burden of illness and costs associated with poor air quality should include illness associated with headache.
With this information, I think it is time to start a migraine journal which also notes the corresponding trends in our local air quality. It will be interesting to see what anecdotal data I come up with, but I highly suspect one of the primary culprits will indeed be Utah’s toxic air.
If you too suffer from erratic migraines and live in Utah or another high pollution area, consider keeping a migraine-air quality journal. Please share the results at firstname.lastname@example.org. Thank you!