Tatum Dooley, 25, has suffered from pressure headaches since she was a child. Whenever one strikes, she is forced to take a day off, saddled with too much pain and grogginess to get through a normal work day. "I've realised there's no use in trying to work," Dooley said. "I hate that my work and life are dependent on the weather — something I can't control."
When Dooley was in college, she realised her headaches were correlated with the weather. “It took me an embarrassingly long time to realise,” Dooley said. “When it rains, or the pressure drops rapidly, I wake up with a headache and overall grogginess,” Dooley said, adding that these symptoms can make it difficult for her to work. “It feels like being hungover even when I'm not.”
According to the American Migraine Foundation, many people with chronic non-migraine headaches and migraines feel there is a correlation between weather patterns and headaches. The theory is that as outside barometric pressure lowers, there emerges a pressure difference between the air outside and the air inside of one’s sinuses. And, a new phone app, WeatherX, is aiming to help those with susceptibility to these types of atmospheric changes avoid headaches all together.
WeatherX first began as earplugs from Cirrus Healthcare, a company that has long been making pressure-related products such as EarPlanes, the earplugs designed to alleviate in-flight altitude changes. “After receiving consistent feedback over the years, we dug a little deeper and found that, with a more sensitive filter, our earplugs could help prevent headaches related to the change in weather pressure,” Grant O’Connell, Director of Marketing and Communications for Cirrus Healthcare Products told Refinery29.
Just as the WeatherX earplugs were first entering production, the company teamed up with a developer who had created a barometric pressure forecasting app. The new, free app delivers customisable push notifications of upcoming weather changes that could impact users' health. The app includes a 7-day barometric pressure forecast, a 7-day barometric historical record, and headache prevention tips and can be used in conjunction with WeatherX earplugs or other headache prevention methods.
Dr. Mauskop, the Director of the New York Headache Centre, is very familiar with the topic of barometric pressure headaches. He makes it clear that the correlation has not been definitively proven, but in his practice he has found that roughly 20% of his migraine patients feel the weather affects their symptoms. “Many people tell me barometric pressure is one of their triggers," Dr. Mauskop told Refinery29. He believes that medication, such as Acetazolamide and diuretics, are more effective than earplugs in preventing headaches and migraines. But ultimately the treatment choice remains with the individual.
If you do decide to try WeatherX, the app is easy to use. Once installed, the app will ask for your location and whether you'll allow it to send alerts ahead of a barometric pressure change. WeatherX's main tab gives you a 3-day forecast of the magnitude of change in your location in inHG units, but there's also a tab charting changes in the next 48 hours and expected shifts in the next seven days as well as historical trends. The alerts are a reminder that you may experience some discomfort, and that if the earplugs work for you to put them in.
By monitoring atmospheric pressure changes and alerting users to these changes, WeatherX provides users with a tool that can help them explore factors that may affect their health and plan accordingly. “We view the WeatherX app as a free resource to those trying to narrow down their headache triggers,” O’Connell said, adding that Cirrus is always looking for opportunities for drug-free solutions to health problems, particularly options that utilise technology.
Ultimately, whether you believe in the potential for atmospheric pressure to bring on a headache, WeatherX is an interesting and unique approach to headache management. No matter one’s preferred form of treatment — from botox injections to painkillers to earplugs — this app harnesses technology and weather forecasting systems and can help headache sufferers stay one step ahead of their pain. This prospect, alone, is reason enough to give it a try.